Background Check In the past few years, Portuguese or Brazilian all-you-can-eat grills have cropped up throughout Long Island and the city. They call themselves Churrasqueira and feature the style of dining called “rodizio,” which means rotation of meats. Eight months ago, Hazem Abdelenin and Carlos Valente took over the restaurant and changed its name from Bairrada to Vila Nova, but they are still affiliated with the Bairrada in Mineola. Each restaurant boasts a large grill with multiple choices of marinated wood-grilled meats on skewers that are brought to your table. Some of these places have large buffets with a soup, salad and side-dish bar. Here at Rodizio Vilanova they bring everything to you. How perfect for the overfed Long Islander, a buffet where you don’t even have to drag your fat ass out of your seat.
Casing the Joint Outside, an awning tells passers-by that this is an Italian-Spanish-Portuguese restaurant. Perhaps they figure they might scare some less than adventurous people away with the fact that this is a Portuguese place. Except for the grill in the front window and the poster of Portugal on the wall, the inside could’ve been a pancake house. Walls with mirrors surrounded two dozen tables.
What You Can’t Eat Even though I planned to order the rodizio, I spied a couple of dishes I rarely see on a menu. I felt it my duty to order the Leitao a Bairrada, or Suckling Pig Bairrada Style. Our waitress, Nadia, shook her head and said, “I’m sorry, but we don’t have that anymore. We would get them and no one would order it and they would rot and smell in the back.” This was more info than I needed. With the image of rotting, smelly dead pig in my mind, I said, “I don’t suppose you have the goat either then?” I was referring to the Chanfana a Bairrada, or roasted kid. Nadia shook her head. I guess “bairrada style” means “we don’t have it because no one orders it and it rots.” So much for Porky-on-a-Plate.
What You Can Eat We were here for the meat, so three of us went with the rodizio ($17.95). One of us who has been working in a health-food store lately chose from about a dozen seafood dishes and ordered the grilled salmon steak ($15.95), which came with a boiled potato and steamed vegetables. It was just fish on a plate. Nothing fancy.
A basket of Portuguese bread, a bowl of olives and a plate of green salad came for the table. After about 10 minutes, our side dishes came family-style, and all were outstanding: rice with lightly breaded fried whole bananas and ground dried yucca in a small bowl for sprinkling, black beans, fresh cut French fries and collard greens with garlic. Collard greens? This must have been from southern Portugal.
Then came our plates, and the guy with the skewers of meat finally came, and the meat parade began. At other rodizios they give you a block of wood that’s red on one side and green on the other, so you can signal when you’ve had enough. Without this system in place, the food kept on coming. Sausage spiced with sage and turkey wrapped in bacon arrived and were slid off the skewers onto our plates. The sausage was a little dry, but the turkey was very juicy. Chicken wings were juicy but the spareribs were dry. Then came pork loin and flank steak. Delicious. The skirt steak was rare and extremely good. The Chateaubriand was very dry, but the short ribs were meaty, juicy, big and bouncy. More turkey came and we gave up. When we finished, Nadia came over and said, “Where’s your block?” We thought we might have eaten it. She brought it over. We quickly turned it to red.
Vegetarian Alert What the hell are you doing here? If you can stomach this display of flesh, you may actually enjoy the side dishes, plus the ever-present portabella mushroom or pasta with chopped portabellas. Or, try the asparagus vinaigrette, stuffed mushrooms or stuffed eggplant. Let me know how it is.
Cavity Patrol Decadence ($4.50) is white chocolate mousse cake and is properly named.
Damage Since appetizers are superfluous here, you can get away with the $17.95 for the meat orgy.