A deceptively simple menu; unusually great Italian food
Rogerio Voltan/Press Image
Spaghetti with meatballs
This venue closed on August 2013
The opening of a new Italian restaurant in São Paulo has become about as ubiquitous as the parading of Brazil’s economic boom: we’re all a little tired of hearing about it. But Spago, the latest venture from Zena Caffé chef/social media butterfly Carlos Bertolazzi, is exceptional for a few reasons.
At first sight, the menu is startlingly uninventive: a small-ish set of simple classics like spaghetti and meatballs (R$29), chicken marsala (from R$29), and stuffed shells (R$31). It’s the kind of meal you might expect to find on grandma’s dinner table – even if your grandma isn’t Italian – and a noteworthy departure from most of São Paulo’s Italian restaurants’ Brazilianised hybrid dishes like filet mignon parmegiana, pizza with Catupiry cheese, lasagne with ham and the like.
But sometimes there’s comfort in the classics, which is where Bertalozzi’s kitchen shines. Spago’s spaghetti and meatballs – something you might never think of ordering in a restaurant – will forever alter your perception of the dish. The meatballs are made from ground picanha (top sirloin) and served with thicker-than-average spaghetti, all doused in a tomato sauce that has been simmered for six hours, adding up to a satisfying, complex experience. And beyond the food, an even more straightforward concept prevails, and it’s one we love to stumble across here in São Paulo: a commitment to fair prices.
The presence of Spago’s hearty, classic fare doesn’t mean there are no surprises, though. The frozen banoffee pie – that’s rare in Brazil despite being packed with the local favourite doce de leite – is a personal favorite of Bertalozzi’s and it shows: it’s a transcendent bulls-eye of a dessert.
By Kevin Raub
from R$ 26 to R$ 34
Open noon-3pm, 7-11pm Mon-Wed; noon-3pm, 7pm-midnight Thu, Fri; noon-midnight Sat.
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