2008-02-13 / Restaurant of the Week

COPACABANA

31-13 36th Avenue, Astoria, NY 718.545.3685
By Teresa Barile

B razilian cuisine is as big and bold as the country itself, with so many regional dishes reflecting the diversity of its population. Copacabana offers the flavors of Brazil in a convenient, comfortable setting, to eat in or to take away. Whether you

choose their famous Brazilian style pizza,

topped with hearts of palm, chicken, olives, sliced egg or onion, or delight in their buffet and churrascaria, you will be in for a gustatory treat.

Owner Jose Bezerra takes pride in his restaurant and pizzeria and wants to show off his traditional Brazilian dishes with very affordable prices. Just next to the pizzeria is the churrascaria and restaurant, where one can eat in the coral colored dining room with vibrant murals adorning the walls. Copacabana's hot and cold buffet offers dozens of choices of entrées and salads each day, reflecting the culinary diversity of Brazil. There are always plenty of fish dishes, chicken, pork and beef, as well as fresh vegetables, potatoes, and of course, rice and beans. Sample whatever you'd like, such as beef stew ladled on a mound of savory rice. Fried fish fillets were crispy and golden, while the sautéed fish was juicy and flaky. Freshly steamed Swiss chard, broccoli and cauliflower add a healthy note. Two kinds of beans, pink and black, beg to be spooned over fluffy white rice and topped with Brazilian cornmeal. It was great to see families and singles, Brazilians and native New Yorkers alike enjoying this hearty, soul-satisfying food.

The expert grill man works the churrasca where delicious cuts of meat, chicken and sausage are laced onto long skewers and rotate constantly over the hottest fire. There is savory top sirloin called "picanha", sliced to order, as well as grilled loin of pork and the tastiest sausages you'll try, made with either pork or chicken. The beef short ribs are slow cooked for hours on the giant, steel skewers, as are tender pieces of chicken. My dining companion described the chicken as juicy and succulent, whose meat just falls off the bone. This method of cooking imparts exceptional flavor and juiciness to all the meats and explains the endless line of customers who come for the delicious food at reasonable prices. Simply select what you want and pay at the cashier.

The cool salad bar is filled with fresh, crunchy green salad, potato salad, beets and tomato salsa, Russian salad with diced carrots and peas and several choices of dressing. There are house made desserts like passion fruit mousse, which was delicately sweet and lighter than air, or creamy flan made of coconut or pineapple to end your meal on a tropical note.

If you're still not convinced, another attraction is the reasonable cost. For the hot buffet and salad, pay just $4.99 per pound. Add the barbecued meat to that and pay just $5.49 per pound. You can even order assorted barbecued meats alone for $7.99 per pound, which actually costs less than buying the meat yourself and cooking it. Besides, you could never replicate the flavor from the rotisserie grill at home.

Copacabana is open seven days a week from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm. Lunchtime is a great time to try their pizza or a juicy hamburger, Brazilian chicken sandwich, pasta dish or salad. For great pizza, Brazilian style barbecued meats and a full hot and cold buffet to eat in or take away visit Copacabana. The pizzeria will deliver delicious pizzas, burgers, pasta and salads to your home or office. Call or stop in for a menu. Copacabana is conveniently located just off the 36th Avenue stop on the N train.

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