In the heart of Pinheiros, Rua Ferreira de Araújo has suddenly become a gastronomic epicenter. Every week, a new restaurant appears in the panorama of the hungry paulistanos who pass through the street, which is always crowded.
It is there, where there are modern bars and houses specializing in truffles, traditional bakeries and hipster coffee shops, that chef Tássia Magalhães and her husband and partner, Daniel Steinle, decided to open Nelita, a restaurant that is not limited to a single definition. The House has just debuted on the list 50 Best Latin America at number 39.
Inaugurated almost two years ago, the house won over the people of São Paulo for combining many elements: an extroverted but professional atmosphere; elaborate but affectionate food; attentive and friendly service without being “buddy”.
The facade in Tiffany green with exposed bricks indicates a cosmopolitan restaurant, which could be in any capital in the world (and which would fit very well as a Parisian bistro, for example).
But the food proves the chef’s São Paulo origin, who was born in the interior of São Paulo (Guaratinguetá) and made a career in the capital, mainly ahead of the renowned Pomodori, having the challenge of replacing Jefferson Rueda when the chef left.
Over the years, Tássia has created her own style: focusing on authorial and contemporary Italian cuisine, but without turning a blind eye to what happens in other regions of the world — passages through Nordic cuisines have helped her in this regard.
His dishes are precise and subtle, with often surprising constructions of flavors, like the breaded shrimp with miso and acerola brodo (R$86). Where one expects the trivial, the chef surprises with a bit of daring.
But it is in the pasta section that she shows her dominance: the agnolotti stuffed with goat with confit lemon sauce, honey and black garlic (R$ 101) is a small grenade that only detonates in the mouth after the first fork. Smooth and powerful, it is proof that Tássia’s work is full of (good) contradictions.
Especially in the flavors: one of the best dishes on the menu is the linguine (with homemade pasta, like all the others), with clams, lard and smoked zucchini (R$ 108). It’s all there: umami, iodine, the light smoke. The lard still adds an extra layer of texture, a detail of those who understand delicacy.
There’s more: risottos, meats (a duck with smoked onions and French “accent”, R$167), and a small section of vegetables, as required by current menus. For those who want to stay just for the starters accompanied by wine (much of the menu is made up of natural labels), there is plenty to have fun with.
The asparagus confit with soft beurre blanc and house-made bottarga (R$76) or the very light foie gras mousse with green apple and matcha (R$86) are prepared with care — the latter is best shared, so as not to get sick.
With an open kitchen, installed right in the center (where only women work, something rare in gastronomy), Nelita has the atmosphere of a Brooklyn New York restaurant: industrial chic decor, a wide white stone counter and soul jazz sounding through the boxes.
As in the menu, which allows for different experiences (a light dinner before the cinema, a meeting with friends on Saturday night), the rooms follow the same note: from tables with intimate sofas to a table with up to 14 seats in the cellar at the top for groups.
On Tuesdays, Tássia leaves the script and pays homage to its cooks, with an exclusive menu and more gastronomic with ten dishes (R$ 310) created by many hands.
Each of them is responsible for a recipe based on affective memories, with more elaborate dishes, such as the ballerinas box, served with four bonbons (between honey, corn, beetroot and hibiscus).
And, in Nelita’s universe, a “tasting menu” is also another possibility. It’s more of a restaurant within a restaurant, another alternative for a creative chef who has a lot to show.