The sun is already down when the food kiosks at the entrance to the Z10 fishing colony open their doors. It’s evening, and we are on Ilha do Governador (Governor’s Island), the largest island in Guanabara Bay and far away from Rio’s tourist spots – the only reason most visitors come to this working-class suburb is to catch a flight at the Rio de Janeiro International Airport.
These kiosks are almost all alike: boring food stalls serving bland seafood broths, bad pizzas and standard sandwiches. But six months ago, a new kiosk set up shop, one that is completely different from the others. It’s called Lá na Rosi and serves some of the most amazing street food in Rio.
Like a flower in the desert, the colorful Lá na Rosi stands in stark contrast to the other kiosks, all painted a plain-looking gray. The flowers on the counter and tables add to its charm. But what really makes the kiosk stand out is the woman commanding the kitchen: Ms. Rosiana Amaral, or just Rosi, a famous cook who specializes in Portuguese recipes. The kiosk, of course, belongs to her.
For more than ten years, Rosi was the chef at Pontapé Beach, a large bar also located on Ilha do Governador. In 2017, she left the bar to tackle a new challenge: offering her own creations in this tiny street food stall. There may be fewer customers, but Rosi has more freedom to experiment. The results are mouth-watering.
“I decided to switch jobs because what I really love is to cook, not being the boss. Here, I earn less money but I am much happier and freer,” says Rosi, who, prior to her stint at Pontapé Beach, spent more than 20 years working abroad at bars and restaurants in Lisbon and Porto.
Due to her newfound freedom, Rosi is constantly adding surprise dishes to her menu. But there are some mainstays, such as the bolinhos, little fried dumplings filled with various combinations of seafood and different kinds of meat and seasoned rice.
The most famous is the bolinho da Dercy, made with rice and broccoli, and accompanied by a portion of punheta de bacalhau (marinated raw cod). This is one of Rosi’s tried-and-true classics. The bolinho de siri catado, though, is a novelty. The filling of this dumpling is made with fresh crab and white beans – it’s unexpected yet delightful. Another spectacular option is the bolinho de bife rolê, which is filled with meat and carrots.
In Brazil, when a dish is this good, we say that it can bring the dead back to life.
For those who prefer something more daring, we recommend the rich broth made with white beans, air-dried cured meat, shredded chicken and offal. In Brazil, when a dish is this good, we say that it can bring the dead back to life.
That’s all we could try on our first visit to Lá na Rosi, but there’s so much more on the menu that we’re itching to go back. Although it’s a bit far away from downtown, this is a place that deserves several visits (and if you’re not from Rio, we highly recommend that you visit with a guide or somebody who knows Rio’s outer neighborhoods well).
The trip alone is worth it to meet Rosi. Extremely gentle and funny, she loves to have a cold beer with her customers and tell stories about her life, which are always full of adventures, funny situations and, of course, a lot of great food.