Where the British have a Sunday roast, Cariocas spend their Sunday afternoons at churrascos, Brazilian barbecues. Starting in the mid-afternoon, Rio’s residents typically gather in squares and street corners throughout the city and load spindly grills with slabs of meat. As the evening draws on, skewers and sausages are washed down with copious amounts of beer, and people shake their hips furiously as sizeable loudspeakers blare out samba and Brazilian pop classics. It’s a long-established recipe for a good time.
Churrascos of this sort are most commonly held in the working-class suburbs. But what’s a resident of Rio’s new, more genteel, middle-class neighborhoods to do on a Sunday? The answer is being provided by Praticità Carnes, a churrascaria with the suburbanite in mind.
Praticità is located in Barra, one of Rio’s newer neighborhoods, perhaps best known for its large condo buildings and mega malls. The churrascaria sits in the suburb’s swankiest location, next to a newly opened metro stop and surrounded by luxury apartments boasting balconies with hanging gardens.
In such a rarefied environment, where gated communities and high-rises preclude informal street parties, Praticità caters to the desire for a traditional churrasco experience. The restaurant certainly knows its audience – Praticità has gained a devoted following by offering meats in a wider range of cuts and insisting on live music. This type of neo-churrascaria hasn’t spread outside of Barra, but it’s already inspiring copycats in this upscale suburb.
Praticità’s corner of Barra, a 20-minute metro ride from Ipanema Beach, has a more relaxed pace than bustling downtown Rio. On Sunday afternoons, locals gather with friends, families, neighbors and acquaintances on Avenida Olegário Maciel, one of the suburb’s most popular streets. Packed with everything from sushi and burger joints to more traditional restaurants, the leafy street offers something for everyone – but no place draws a bigger crowd than Praticità.
The churrascaria was founded eight years ago by Ana Claudia Faria, a 41-year-old Barra native. After almost a decade spent running Brazilian barbecue joints in the neighborhood, Faria had become an enthusiastic meat connoisseur and wanted to provide a higher quality churrasco experience. This began with the meat.
Praticità is a churrascaria with the suburbanite in mind.
Just inside the restaurant, supermarket-sized fridges are stacked top-to-bottom with traditional and quirkier meat cuts, from filet mignon and pork backs to chicken sausages and assorted hearts on skewers. There’s even a frozen section where customers can purchase more unusual options for beef-loving Cariocas, such as salmon and poussin (young chicken), for their own at-home barbecues.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, after selecting our meat cuts and paying upfront, we sat down at a table with our fridge-cold purchases. As people lounged, mingled and chatted in the late afternoon sunshine, servers zipped between the hundred-strong crowd, delivering cold beers to tables and ferrying meat to grills where it’s stripped of its packaging and cooked to order. As soon as it was ready, the waiter brought over the finished product, which was sliced and served on polystyrene trays with wooden cocktail forks – it almost looked dainty in comparison to the forearm-sized skewers at typical street-corner churrascos.
Praticità was ahead of the curve when it came to beverages, offering craft beers long before they became trendy in Rio. One of Faria’s associates at Praticità simply liked craft and imported beers, and persuaded her that they went better with the meat. The wide selection of brews added to the churrascaria’s popularity among locals who are developing a taste for beers that are more full-bodied than Brazil’s national brews, which are mainly pilsners and American-style lagers.
Some things never change, though. Like most other churrascarias, providing vegetarian options isn’t a top priority at Praticità. The closest thing to a vegetable might be the garlic in the mayonnaise-slathered garlic bread or the sporadic crispy onion among the grains of farofa, a popular topping made from fried manioc flour. Instead, non-meat eaters can munch on skewers of queijo coalho, a firm, salty halloumi-like cheese that takes on a buttery taste when grilled over the churrasco’s flames.
In addition to Praticità’s choice cuts of meat, its location and emphasis on live music form an essential part of the experience. Local resident Susana Tayla Stein comes every week with her family, and like many others she arrives early in the afternoon to snag one of the sunlit tables outside. For Stein, Praticità offers up the perfect recipe for a Sunday afternoon in Rio’s suburbs: family, friends, food and music in a laid-back environment.
Although the churrascaria has live music every night, the Sunday roda de samba, where percussionists, vocalists and guitarists sit round a table as they sing popular samba classics for hours on end, is a consistent crowd-pleaser. Some things are not so different between downtown and Rio’s tonier suburbs: like any good roda de samba, people don’t just dance along; more often than not, animated footwork is accompanied by an enthusiastic singalong from the crowd.