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Speranza Dishin' out the dough

Opening in the ‘50s, this traditional Italian eatery was at the forefront of restaurants bringing Italian cooking to Brazil, introducing the ubiquitous Margherita (now the house specialty) and presenting an authentic Italian charm, thanks to the Neapolitan heritage of Sperenza’s owners.

One glimpse at the trays flurrying out of the kitchen and you’ll soon deduce that pizza is the choice of most of Sperenza’s customers but if a slice of pie is not what you’re after, the full menu of pastas, lasagnas and other Italian dishes (we recommend the Tortano, a type of sausage bread), entrees and desserts will surely satisfy.

An ideal spot for a laidback meal with family and friends, Sperenza’s cheerful wait staff place and impassioned gourmandizers ensure the place is as vibrant as any Italian restaurant should typically be.

Carlota The world on a plate

It is not by chance that Carlota claims to serve “multicultural cuisine”. The menu brings togethers recipes that boast a little taste from many different countries—and a big taste of Brazil.

Headed by chef Carla Pernambuco and with more then 10 years of success under its belt, Carlota works its culinary wonders from a brick house in Higienópolis. The walls are whitewashed because one of the owners, Nando, believes that people look prettier when they are surrounded by the absence of color. It’s a photographer’s vision, of course, which explains why those same walls are also decorated with photographs taken by famous Brazilian artists. The result is a lovely atmosphere, so lovely, in fact, that it is actually the reason Carlota is a restaurant instead of a takeaway place: customers were so happy to hang around picking at appetizers while they waited for their orders that the rest just evolved organically.

One of the hits at lunch time, is the “PF chic”. “PF” is the Portuguese expression for “prato feito”): sort of plat du jour that changes depending on what day of the week it is. A guava soufflé is another favorite, as are the diverse degustation menu.

Vanilla Caffé Watching the world go by

This tiny 24-hour coffee shop is perfectly placed for first class people-watching. Vanilla Caffé is just around the corner from vibrant Rua Augusta and its small terrace spills—quite literally—out onto the pavement.

So pick up a fashion magazine or two and hunker down for a long, busy morning of cigarette smoking, coffee drinking, reading and, of course, not-so-subtle staring.

The cushy couches are also tempting and the wi-fi, a definite bonus. Vanilla Caffé serves nice desserts (the banana cake tops the list) and light meals at lunchtime. The overal effect is very welcoming and so, predictably, the crowd includes coffee drinking people-watchers of all sorts, from suits to party people.

Octavio Café No ordinary coffee shop

If the roasting, grinding and serving of coffee beans were an art form, then Octavio Café would the National Gallery: the entire establishment is geared towards stimulating the senses of its customers.

The café’s designers Seragine Farné Guardado and Marcello Dantas only employed suitable shapes and colors: the curve of the building is reminiscent of a cup, while the floors are made of irregular rosé wood that harks back to old coffee farms. The building has two main blocks: the café’s wooden/glass box and a stone section that houses the kitchen and the office. Both are filled with beautiful modern furniture. On the first floor is a “coffee university” where visitors can study the magic beans in even greater detail.

Coffee drinkers can choose where to enjoy their rarified brews: there is an indoor lounge, a canteen, a dining room, an internal garden, an outdoor lounge with a fireplace for colder days and a terrace. It is, like everything else at Octavio Café, an embarrassment of coffee-related riches.

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