If you walk into Taste of Brasil restaurant, 906 S. Oak Park Avenue, on a Saturday evening, you will find a lively crowd filling the tables—the standard 4-seaters toward the center, as well as the taller 2-seaters near the window. Andre Otero, half of the husband-wife owner team, is front-of-house, greeting and chatting with customers in both English and Portuguese.
All of this is cozy and inviting, but just wait until your meal reaches your table. Otero’s wife, Cristiane Pereira, is the other half of the ownership duo; one of her roles it to cook on Saturdays. She is a graduate of culinary school and her talent is evident from the first bite of their signature cheese bread, puffs of “goodness,” as she says, made (gluten-free) from taro flour and cheese. For a main dish, I ordered Feijoada, the national dish of Brazil. Everything is fresh, flavorful and beautifully presented.
Earlier this month, I had the chance to sit down with Pereira and Otero to talk about how they got started and how their business has evolved. They are both originally from Brazil, where they met. Pereira says they had the chance to buy the place seven years ago, soon after getting married. Their different skill sets help them work in a complementary way. With his engineering background, Otero is more strategic and he laughs that he “hates cooking”; Pereira, head cook, is in charge of human resources as well as all the buying. Otero says, “She’s the creative one.”
Only months after they opened, Pereira became pregnant with their daughter, Bianca. Pereira says that it was a challenge working through her pregnancy: “We didn’t have employees. All we had was two people helping. […] I used to come in [early] and only leave after we closed at night.” Otero jokes, “At age three, Bianca started to help. She could walk and deliver the cheese bread [to the tables].”
Seven years in, business is stable. They appreciate the community in Oak Park. Pereira notes, “Oak Park is very diverse. And they are willing to try new things.” They both say they value their customers and treat them more like friends. Of Oak Park, Pereira says, “I just like the fact that this is truly a community. People care about each other.”
One thing they really appreciate about Oak Park is the Health Department. Otero says, “We appreciate everything they have done. They have educated us. They have always given us time to comply.” Pereira adds, “It helps me to keep my employees on their toes. We label everything. We organize everything, the way it’s supposed to be. In these things, we have been trained by the Health Department.”
Up next for Taste of Brasil might be a move or adding a new location, still inside Oak Park. In the meantime, Pereira has created and bottled her own delicious hot sauce, called “I’m hot!”, for sale at the restaurant. The sauce boasts all local ingredients except for the special malagueta Brazilian peppers they use. They hope to increase the distribution of her hot sauce, as well as frozen cheese bread that can be baked at home. For more information about Taste of Brasil or to view the menu, visit tasteofbrasilcafe.com