Quintal do Bráz Pizzeria
Rua Gandavo 447, São Paulo, 04023-001 Brazil (map);
Pizza Style: Wood-fired pizzas with two Neapolitan varieties
The Skinny: Neapolitan pizzas aren't quite as airy or charred as I look for, but the toppings are excellent when they're well salted and seasoned.
Price: R$39,00 for La Vera Margherita; R$55,00 for the Barra Speciale; R$52,00 for the Primo
On a recent trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil, I had plenty of reasons to conclude that it is a city that takes food seriously. But finding out that Paulistas take pizza seriously was an even greater recommendation for Sao Paulo's charms. Pizza is a regular part of the eating routine, with wood-fired pizza being the style of choice among local connoisseurs.
Quintal do Bráz Pizzeria is one of the city's most popular pizza destinations, as evidenced by a packed room, front patio, and back garden when I visited on a balmy Wednesday evening. One of a small chain of pizzerias (with locations in Sao Paulo and Rio), Quintal do Bráz is located in a large, beautiful building that used to be a private family home. The interior has been transformed into a cavernous but warm room with high, sloping ceilings, blonde and cherry wood slats, and large picture windows that look out onto the lush back garden.
While waiting for our table, we sat on the lively front patio, where patrons were enjoying beers and appetizers. We followed suit, ordering foamy Chopp beers (available in refreshing blond and creamy sweet dark varieties) and pão de calabresa tradiçào Bráz (R$14,00), or Calabresa bread. Thickly sliced and studded with sausage, cheese is baked into the flaky, buttery interior, lending a chewy, savory quality to the brioche-like bread. It was perfect beer food, and certainly boded well for the pizzas to come.
All of the pizzas available are prepared in a wood-fired oven, and there are a large number of topping options. Two pizzas are listed separately as Pizzas Verace Napoletana, promising a specifically Neapolitan pie. We tried La Vera Margherita (R$39,00), which came with tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella. The crust was a little thick and bready for a Neapolitan pizza—it lacked some airiness and the smokey char flavor I look for. But the Margherita toppings were excellent: the tomato sauce was sweet and fresh; the mozzarella well salted with a lovely milky flavor; the basil so fresh that I could smell it when the waiter brought the pizza to the table. All in all, a very nice pizza, even if the crust wasn't quite textbook Neapolitan.
The non-Neapolitan pizza varieties, however, weren't quite as successful. The Barra Speciale (R$55,50 for a medium, R$61,50 for a large) came with burrata, tomatoes, and black olives —the olives aside, there was a serious lack of salt. The tomatoes were quite bland (especially compared to the Margherita's sauce), and the burrata, while nice and creamy, didn't lend enough flavor to the pie.
The Primo (R$52,00 for a medium, R$57,50 for a large) was a bit better—the proscuitto was quite good, and had a great, cured pork flavor. But the lacking tomatoes still brought the pie down. The crust on both of these pizzas was much more firm and crisp than the Neapolitan, though they had far less flavor.
Overall, I was pleased by the pizza scene in Sao Paulo. Quintal do Bráz is a place I could see being one of my regular spots should I live in the city—some Calabresa bread, a few Chopps, and a Margherita pie in the garden sounds like my kind of a night out.