By Rochelle Koff
Mention a Brazilian restaurant, and South Floridians tend to think of gauchos, sizzling spits of meat and the rodizio experience. At Weston’s Deco Gourmet, however, owners Sandra and Waldyr Silva take a different approach, focusing on the Italian dishes popular in their native Sao Paulo.
Sandra Silva’s grandparents emigrated from Verona, but most of the Italians who settled in her region of Brazil came from northern Italy, so most dishes are rich with cream sauces instead of zesty tomato.
Brazil’s pantry is revealed in touches like a flavorful, Brazilian-style sausage (their own recipe, called tal) and, when available, creamy catupiry cheese. An all-you-can-eat buffet of feijoada, the meaty black bean stew that is Brazil’s national dish, is offered the first Saturday of each month.
The Silvas aim to make Deco Gourmet a fun, upscale destination, skillfully catering to families as well as date-night couples.
Reasonable prices and excellent service are a draw. Our server on two visits, Catalina, was capable, charming and efficient. We thought the live entertainment (after 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday) would be overwhelming in the 80-seat restaurant, but the bossa nova duo was soft and sultry.
The place itself is pretty bold for a basic strip shopping center, painted a deep red and transformed after dark with red and black tablecloths and candlelight. From some tables you can see the flames shooting out from the large brick oven, a primo platform for nearly two dozen gourmet pizzas (and a few dessert choices).
Complimentary slices of the crust also arrive at the start with an amuse bouche of homey soups. One night we enjoyed an excellent tomato-based vegetable stock with lots of spinach and on another visit a wonderful black bean soup cut with coconut milk.
A starter of escondidinho was one of our favorites, a small casserole of shredded, cured beef mixed with a yuca purée topped with a thick layer of catupiry cheese baked to a golden brown. A Brazilian appetizer plate brings fried items like small meatballs, coxinha (creamy chicken in a teardrop-shaped crust) and meat and cheese empanadas (the combination varies).
The menu is dominated by pasta dishes including an intriguing pear ravioli with a sweet puréed filling that offsets the rich cream sauce. Lobster ravioli was good but would be better if the kitchen lightened up on the tomato-cream sauce.
Other entree choices are limited. The shrimp au catupiry was bland and the shrimp a bit overcooked. The picanha plate brought two slabs of the juicy grilled top sirloin, served with white rice, crisp fried yuca and farola, a bread-crumb like dish made of yuca flour, garlic, onions, Kalamata olives and bacon.
A buttery-tender filet mignon, cooked rare as requested, came with a mound of pretty good mashed potatoes and an excellent pesto sauce. A roast-chicken special with mashed potatoes and julienne vegetables was good enough but overly complex, with multiple cream sauces.
Deco Gourmet offers a lengthy list of international desserts and has a number of dessert wines, including Selaks ice wine and St. Supery Moscato, on its well-priced wine list. They also make caipirinhas with sake.
The sugary Brazilian treat quindim (literally "girlish charms") is achingly sweet. We preferred the crepe filled with guava and catupiry cheese — and a scrumptious chocolate gateau served with gelato.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5-10 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: Starters $6-$14, pastas $12-$17, entrees $16-$25, pizzas $10-$16.
FYI: Live jazz and bossa nova 8-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Two-for-one lunch specials. AX, DN, DS, MC, VS.