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With a wide selection of Portuguese and Brazilian food and wine, the Bacalhau Grill Restaurant & Market in San Jose is a home away from home for immigrants from two continents linked by a common language.
“When the restaurant started 40 years ago, it was essentially Portuguese,” said Joel Neto, assistant manager, San Jose Spotlight. “After about 15 years, they brought in Brazilian partners who, of course, brought in Brazilian foods and products as well.”
The work is divided into 1555 Alum Rock Ave. In San Jose it’s literally down the middle: part restaurant, part grocery. The entrance opens to the dining room and front table, where chafing dishes display half a dozen Portuguese tapas.
Netto, a 21-year-old Brazilian immigrant, recommends Feijoada, a mixture of rice, beans, beef, and “every type of pork,” including bacon and sausage. Surfer Maria Costa, 17, is quick to recommend Stroganoff Frango, a Brazilian who takes chicken stroganoff, or Alcatra, slow-cooked cubes from a pot roast that crumbles.
The biggest hit with customers was Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, a casserole made with fish, potatoes, eggs, olives, and onions. Bacalhau – salted cod – has not only been an inspiration for the restaurant, but is also prominently featured, serving as the base for the half-dozen dishes and salads on the menu.
Bacalhau is also the choice of client Helia Castro, who hails from Brazil. But her passion is one of the sweets, a parfait called “Prestigio”.
“It’s the best,” she told the San Jose Spotlight. “Coconut cream and chocolate cake, so moist and delicious. But I love everything they make here – it’s part of my culture.”
While the restaurant’s food is exceptional, the market itself is a gem box of gourmet delights. The shelves are filled with foods imported from Brazil and Portugal, from beans and other staples to canned and bottled juices, fruits and vegetables to chocolate and biscuits. The shop also stocks a wide selection of wine, beer, liquor, and, of course, the port.
“People who don’t know anything else about Portuguese foods might start to try wine,” Neto said. “They are all premium products. We have everything from our oldest port, 1967 Colheita, to Super Bock, one of the most popular beers in Portugal.”
The store’s meatball, which sells salted cod in various sizes or available as whole – and jumbo – boneless fillets, as well as sausages made by local Portuguese firms.
“We have linguiça da Terceira and linguiça do Pico, and we smoke linguica from Goulart’s in San Jose. We also have morcilla, but we may not be able to get it for much longer because the manufacturer is downsizing due to the economy,” said Neto.
As with many businesses, Bacalhau Grill is no longer returning to its pre-pandemic numbers, although it has managed to stay as open as possible for customers, who tend to be older.
“For about seven months, we haven’t been able to open the restaurant to eat,” Neto said. “We were still able to sell to our customers, but it was something that hit us hard.”
During the pandemic, many regular seniors have left the area and Bacalhau Grill survived the pandemic with the help of government loans and purchase orders, along with food and grocery deliveries to San Francisco, Nito said. The company currently uses Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash to serve local customers.
“For the Brazilian and Portuguese communities here, we want them to know that we are working as hard as possible to reach them to give them the best experience possible. We want them to feel as if they are in their own country – we want this to be a special place for them and us too,” Neto said.
Contact Robert Eliasson at [email protected]