Among the many travelers who visit Praia da Pipa, there is a considerable number who decide they can’t bear to leave. Instead, they open restaurants—which accounts for the great state of the town’s gastronomic scene.
Artist Rita Gava came to Pipa on vacation from the state of Espírito Santo and never went home. Instead, inspired by her mother’s great cooking, she opened
Panela de Barro (Rua do Cruzeiro 56, tel. 84/3246-2611, 12:30–11 p.m. daily, R$25–35), located on a hillside overlooking the beach. The house specialties are the tasty shrimp and fish moquecas served in the typical panelas de barro (clay casseroles) of her home state. But Gava likes to innovate as well, which accounts for the presence of inventions such as lobster “stroganoff” and grated coconut merengue torte with lime rind.
When world travelers Lucas and Nicole Kondo first arrived in Pipa, they only had R$100 between them. To earn money, they started making and selling organic sandwiches. The sandwiches proved so popular that, instead of continuing their travels, the couple stayed put and opened Tapas (Rua dos Bem-Te-Vis 8, tel. 84/9414-4675, 6:30–11:30 p.m. daily, closed May–June, R$15–25), a relaxing little restaurant that serves up tapa-sized portions of dishes inspired by their globe trotting. Aside from the quintessential Spanish tortilla, you’ll also find Thai red curry, ceviche, and filet mignon in a sauce of peppers, anchovies, and sherry.
Housed inside a cozy yellow casa shaded by palms, Cruzeiro do Pescador’s (Rua dos Concris 1, Chapadão, tel. 84/3246-2026, www.cruzeirodopescador.com.br, 11:30 a.m.– 3 p.m. and 7–11 p.m. daily, closed Mon. off-season, R$28–40) laid-back ambiance belies the fact that its Paulistano proprietor takes his cooking seriously. Fish and seafood are the menu’s stars and they are accessorized with unusual flair. Start off with oysters in coconut milk. Then consider shrimp in a gratinée of four cheeses served in an abacaxi (pineapple), or charcoal grilled pescado fish sprinkled with garlic and lemon tea.
Nostalgic Americans can get a gastronomic shot of home at Pacífico (Rua dos Bem-te-Vis 6, tel. 84/9982-8981, 6:30 p.m.–midnight daily, closed Tues. off-season, R$20–30), where Cordon Bleu–trained Californian chef James Halper, brings Stateside culinary influences to this intimate bistro. Specialties include fish tacos and Pacific tuna lightly grilled with sweet and sour soy sauce. For dessert, try the ice-cream cookie sandwich.
For a light and inexpensive meal, head to Aruman (Av. Baía dos Golfinhos 734, tel. 84/3246-2398, 2 p.m.–midnight daily). Amidst the movimento of Pipa’s main drag, you can chill out at the sidewalk tables and feast on a crêpe (or two). An inspired savory filling blends shrimp and sun-dried tomatoes with pureed manioc and tangy coalho cheese. For dessert, the banana-chocolate crêpe with cashews is pretty irresistible.
For a more local version of a crêpe, Benvinda of Benvinda Tapiocaria (Rua da Gameleira 17, tel. 84/3246-2341, 1–11 p.m. daily) is revered for her delicious tapiocas filled with ingredients such as cheese, shrimp, and carne-de-sol.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition