Part One: Review
The restaurant Celeiro has been at the same location for an astonishing 28 years. The owners have continually refused to expand the brand in spite of a number of enticing opportunities. Run by a very charming family – the mother Rosa Hertz ( photo above, left), and her two daughters Beatriz (center) and Lucia (right) – Celeiro is one of the most beloved restaurants in Rio.
The restaurant was founded in 1982. Located in the trendy Dias Ferreira Street, Celeiro was a pioneer in the neighborhood known as Leblon, and I don’t think I ‘d be exaggerating to say that much of the buzz around this street was slowly built upon and around its existence.
To eat at Celeiro is like trying to enroll your kids in a New York City private school; there aren’t enough schools for the number of children in the city. At Celeiro, the restaurant is much too small for all the people who want to lunch there everyday.
I recall many times when I was forced to have my meal there sitting with someone else’s derriere literally standing across my shoulder because the limited space gets so unbearably crowded. And I keep asking myself how could I possibly desire to go back? The truth is I do, and the more I do, the more I love it.
Why? The food is just amazing. It’s really the best salad restaurant I’ve ever been to. And despite the crowd (I’ll talk about it in a second) the restaurant has quite a charming decor with wicket baskets hanging from the ceiling, cozy wooden panels on the walls, and a loyal and welcoming staff of nice ladies who seem to be working there since the day it opened doors. All in all, Celeiro has that unique feeling of your kitchen-away-from-home in Rio de Janeiro.
Although some of the hot dishes are occasionally exciting, to be honest, I don’t even bother with them. I go straight for the salad bar, though I do keep an eye in the hot main courses in case I am bringing a first time visitor.
Perhaps because of the light menu, Celeiro seems to appeal more for a feminine crowd. Most women eating at the restaurant are spectacularly good-looking, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that is just some sort of chi-chic place without much culinary credentials. In fact, consistency is their motto. While they often innovate with new dishes and ingredients, it is the classic salads displayed at the counter bar for all these years that do the honors of the house.
There are more than 30 fresh salads every day prepared with local and organic ingredients. Have the chicken curry salad with almonds and raisins, some wheat berries with apple and celery, or pasta fuzzily al pesto with Minas cheese, and lunch is pretty good.
Never mind New York, never mind Paris. Celeiro indeed has a special place in my heart.
Rua Dias Ferreira, 199 – Leblon
Tel: ( 55- 21) 2274-7843
On my next post, I will feature an interview with Lucia Hertz and her secrets to keeping Celeiro at the top.