T+L Reports: Brazilian Bohemia
Published: April 2009
Wandering the cobblestoned streets of the quiet village of Embu, it's hard to imagine that frenetic São Paulo is just 16 miles away. Portuguese Jesuits founded this colonial town of Baroque churches and whitewashed houses in 1554. Four centuries later, Embu had become a retreat for urban artists. They're still here, along with Paulistanos who visit this tiny town in search of handmade objets d'art and antiques at the weekend market and creative reinventions of traditional meals at a handful of restaurants. SHOP Inside a 327-year-old former Jesuit house, at Armazém da Terra (213 Largo dos Jesuítas; 55-11/4667-2854), Adrihane Guimarães makes hanging panels of fruit from ceramic clay and wood that can spice up any chef's cozinha. • Next door, Nanda Barros and her husband, Ettore, turn their obsessions into exaggerated images at Ettore & Nanda Atelier (213 Largo dos Jesuítas; 55-11/4703-7659). Nanda's 3-D wood paintings recall Colombian painter Fernando Botero's generously proportioned models, while Ettore's standing figures take humorously well-endowed women as their subject. • Among the heavily religious inventory from the 17th and 18th centuries at Antiquário Marcelo Aguila (29 Rua Joaquim Santana; 55-11/4704-5775), you'll find Portuguese entrance statuettes, known as pinhas, jacaranda armoires from Bahia, and a 300-year-old oratorio (miniature chapel), for storing saints. • Oficina da Cor (45 Rua Nossa Senhora da Rosario; 55-11/3433-1290) sells brightly painted papier-mâché magnets, dolls, and vases—all made from recycled newspaper. EAT Getting into gallery-restaurant Souto Maior (70 Rua Anita Malfati; 55-11/4704-6635; dinner for two $17) can be tricky: celebrated local fashion designer Maior's dinner spot has just 20 seats. All of the 1,500 pieces on display—Pernambuco masks, women's shoes, Telefonica phone booths—are for sale. • Acqua Benedicta (62 Rua da Matriz; 55-11/4781-6707; lunch for two $14) serves 80 artisanal varieties of cachaça, Brazil's popular sugarcane-based spirit. A shot of the rare Havana goes for nearly $9—more than most entrées—and pairs well with a spicy order of chef Nivaldo Santos's carne seca, a salty dried-meat dish from northern Brazil. • For a more formal experience, take a leisurely lunch at Restaurante Antiquário Patacão (95 Rua Joaquim Santana; 55-11/4704-2053; lunch for two $35). Regional dishes such as musculo à frei ansaldo (beef stewed for 24 hours in red wine) are presented in a monastic setting under a wooden roof made from Embu's old railroad trestles.