- July 21, 2016
Let’s clear up a dual language and calorie problem with the name of the new Brazilian/Italian restaurant – Braccia Pizzeria & Ristorante – that opened recently in Winter Park at 153 E. Morse Blvd. off Park Avenue.
First, this is NOT a pizzeria. Or perhaps I should say that our American-English version of the word “pizzeria” is very different than the more inclusive meaning of the word in Portuguese (the first language of the three charming young men – from Brazil – who are the co-owners of this restaurant).
We agree the restaurant is a Ristorante. (Our languages agree on that). And this charming place, with its easy combination of welcoming comfort and refinement, is destined to fit in its Winter Park niche for a very long time.
And that is the wonderful news! Boutique pizzas are indeed a significant part of the menu, but this menu offers fine food options – at an affordable price – that will fill this 65-seat space every hour of every day for as long as the triumvirate of owners decides to keep it open.
Braccia is at 153 E. Morse Blvd. off Park Avenue in Winter Park. Braccia is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. Call 407-636-9918 or visit Facebook.com/BracciaPizzeria
My most thrilling moment was my very first bite. We ordered the Braccia Shrimp. You get it: the name of the restaurant placed on an appetizer should, following logic, be the best appetizer, but I’m still thinking pizzeria, so I’m pleasantly surprised to even find a separate appetizer section on the menu. I know I may be overdoing it some, but I want to share the real thrill of that first bite. I remember I was talking and honestly not focused on the fact that I was putting a crispy bite of shrimp in my mouth … and then … WOW … DOUBLE WOW … my brain was getting an overload of info from my taste buds including, “Dude, you’re reviewing this place and whatever preconceptions you may have had are out the window.”
With that first bite I became aware of what I am so excited to share – look to your laurels oh-ye James Beard-certified super-chefs of Park Avenue – Chef Bartolomeu Lins may be pushing food out of a small kitchen off Park Avenue, but Chef Bart of Brazil is a force to be reckoned with. Same message to those readers who have come to trust me – GO – do not pass GO – do not collect $200 – and experience Braccia before you have to wait in line.
I’ll share the highlights, but every dish that came out of the kitchen way surpassed what we had hoped. The Braccia Shrimp is wonderful because those little beauties were dressed and resting in a love-it, love-it-so-much, made-fresh-daily pesto sauce, and they were “torched” before they came to the table giving them that extra mysterious smoky taste that had so easily seduced my taste buds. And that was the first appetizer!
My guests and I had moved on – from acceptance to the “show me” stage as the second appetizer – the Schiavo Octopus arrived. Many of you know that my specialty is Greek cuisine, so I know octopus and I can tell you – Schiavo is a lucky man. There amidst some adorable baby potatoes and swimming in rosemary-infused olive oil was bite after bite of tender (say what?) octopus. One can use many adjectives when it comes to octopi, but one of them is not tender. So – once again – winner!
At this point we’ve dealt with the language concern (mentioned in paragraph one), but misconception part II includes the calorie question. I even had potential guests say no to visiting a pizzeria thanks to the d-r-e-a-d-e-d calorie question. The boutique pizzas served at Braccia are Brazilian pizzas, created here with an I’ve-never-seen-it-so-thin, low-calorie, extremely fine and crispy … flatbread? No, it’s even thinner than flatbread. Go on doubters. See for yourself.
Now don’t laugh – I’m workin’ here, but there were three of us and we had four pizzas, and we had none of that over-stuffed feeling. Wait ‘til you experience it. This is the way to eat pizza. Four pizzas and we each tasted all four, and we each had our favorite. M went for the Portuguese with its turkey ham, hard-boiled eggs, onions, and green olives that “brought her home to Spain.” S chose the Chicken with Catupiry with mozzarella, shredded chicken, and a wonderful Brazilian cheese that reminded me of Brie, “because she could enjoy the calories of that fabulous melted cheese, because there were so few calories in the thin, thin crust.” Then there was the Brie with Apricot Pizza which included Pomodoro sauce, mozzarella, Brie cheese and apricot jam, because “of its perfect mix of sweet and salty. It’s like pastry meets pizza.” And I – with my fetish for pesto, chose the Pepperoni Pesto Pizza. Bring together the guilty pleasure of pepperoni and slather that with pesto over melted mozzarella, and I’m a happy man.
Returning to the full-service restaurant concept, Braccia considers its Rack of Lamb in red wine sauce a house specialty at $26.90 and an 8-ounce Filet mignon in a red wine reduction for $31.90.
It may be hard to believe, but with that thin crust, even after a full pizza you may have room for dessert, and yes, they offer dessert pizzas including Banana with Cinnamon, Romeo and Juliet (white cheese and guava syrup), and a Chocolate pizza. We wanted the full-on Brazilian experience and shared the Homemade Churros with dulce de leche and the Braccia Special, which is a unique and wonderful homemade “cheese ice cream” with guava caramel syrup and crushed chestnuts. You owe it to yourself to try cheese ice cream at least once in your life.
Co-owner Hugo Passos says, “Our menu is unique, and we’re excited to share our Brazilian heritage with Winter Park. It’s how us Brazilians ‘do’ Italian.”
Trust me, Hugo. We’re excited to have you here.