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Manhattan Restaurants Are Bringing a Taste of Brazil to You

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Now through Friday, June 7, New Yorkers can celebrate the 12th Annual Brazilian Film Festival with a little taste of Brazil! Throughout this week, a variety of ethnic restaurants all over Manhattan including Plataforma, Sushi Samba, Cantine Parisienne, Emporium Brazil, Los Americanos, Organika, Jacques 1534, The Diner, Botequim, Tablao, Rice & Beans and Gradisca are participating in the Taste of Brazil week-long event and will be offering Brazilian themed dishes and cocktails on their menus.

I had the pleasure of dining at one of the participating restaurants last night called Gradisca. An authentic Italian eatery situated on a charming block on the lower West side. The space was located in the basement of a historic brownstone built in the early 1900s. Once guests enter the romantically lit room, exposed brick, blood-red walls and candlelit tables give off a feel of warmth and a super sexy ambiance. The space extends all the way into two additional rooms and has amazing outdoor seating. We were greeted by a tall and slender woman whose thick Italian accent was just as sultry and sexy as the space. Margaret, the restaurant's manager, handed us our menus and allowed us to browse for a few minutes before the delicious Brazilian inspired dishes appeared on our table. Gradisca's menu is a mix of classic Italian dishes as well as a more modern take on Italian peasant food. Think easy and simple ingredients meets exquisitely-fresh local and organic fishes and meats.

Out came a beautifully prepared dish of Ceviche de Solha (local fluke ceviche, tangy mandarin oranges, sweet red onion, basil powder, balsamic, caviar, $17). This dish was extremely refreshing with the lightness of the fresh fluke and the sweetness from the oranges and balsamic. The thinly sliced red onion gave the dish just the right amount of pop and every bit married so well together. Next came out a gorgeously colored cocktail of blood orange and lipstick red shades called the Caipirinha Morango (sagatiba cachaça, cane syrup, muddled strawberries, wedge of lime, $15). A lovely mash up of sweet strawberries and smooth Brazilian rum. It paired just right with all of the flavors and texture of the fresh ceviche.

After gobbling up all of the last bits of our Brazilian treats we decided to order some Gradisca staples off of their daily menu. We started with the Piadina Prosciutto e Mozzarella ($14), which was a warm pressed tortilla filled with fresh mozzarella and thinly sliced prosciutto. And how could I forget the homemade breads, rich olive oil and ripe-mixed olives that accompanied our dishes. Every dish thus far had a feeling of authentic home cooking and every ingredient was specifically tasted throughout each bite.

After peeking at the deep dishes of pasta that were gracing the tables of our neighbors I knew I had to try one of the homemade pasta dishes. I decided on the Orecchiette al Pesto (homemade orecchiette pasta, fresh picked green beans, diced potatoes, basil pesto, $20). This dish was so satisfying and light. The pesto was fresh and coated each and every tiny earred pasta and the string beans and potatoes were so crisp and cooked just perfectly. I sprinkled a little grated Romano and scooped up every last morsel. My guest ordered the Pappardelle alla Bolognese (pappardelle, bolognese ragu with san marzano tomato, parmigiano, $24). A much more heartier dish with perfectly cooked ribbons of pappardelle and savory ground chunks of meat inside a homemade ragu. I took a full fork's twirl on my own. This was some of the best homemade pasta I've tasted. A few shared bites between the both of us and our big bowls of homemade goodness were empty.

We ended the evening with two espressos and a trio of homemade gelatos from NYC's Mo Gelato. We eagerly decided on Nutella, tiramisu and dark chocolate flavors. I even caught myself scooping a little of the Nutella gelato into my warm espresso, heavenly.

Gradisca was such a fine experience and I can't wait to go back. With a large wine list of imported bottles to choose from, the restaurant even offers a small corkage fee if you decide to BYOB. Aside from their dinner and takeout menus, Gradisca also offers a fixed-price, six course tasting menu for $85. A wonderful choice for guests looking to taste a little bit of everything.

Gradisca: 126 West 13th Street. Tel: 212.691.4886.

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