Nestled within the heart of Carle Place, a new restaurant—Lisbon Café, located at 490 Westbury Ave.—is offering local residents a taste of authentic Portuguese continental cuisine, steeped in years of tradition and taste.
Jack Pinto, co-owner of Lisbon Café, came to the United States from Portugal in 1986. He’s been involved in the restaurant business for some time, having started an eatery in his native land with his brother Avelino. Upon arriving in this country, the two started a new restaurant in Mineola—Heart of Portugal—that they still successfully run to this day.
However, Pinto said that, eventually, the urge to duplicate their good fortune led him and his brother to seek out and find their newest endeavor—Lisbon Café, named after the capital of their native Portugal. Along with their partner Agripino Ferreira, who also serves as head chef, the establishment opened its doors to the Carle Place community three months ago and has enjoyed non-stop success ever since.
“We had been looking for a place with good parking and a nice community .I used to live here in Carle Place, so I’m very familiar with the area, and it’s a very friendly, supportive community,” Pinto said. “That’s one of the main reasons we wanted to open a business here. And from the time we opened our doors, the response has been just amazing. We opened on Jan. 10, and we wanted to start slowly and get adjusted to the new place, and when we first opened on a Saturday, people started flying in. We actually had to refuse people because it was packed, and it’s been very busy ever since.”
The interior design of Lisbon Café is warm, inviting and reflects the inspiration of the beauty and culture of Portugal, giving customers a taste of the diversity of his homeland, Pinto said.
“When we moved in, the place was pretty much empty…we re-did everything,” he said. “We did the floors, added stone walls and tried to create a pleasant atmosphere, and add some of the rustic quality of Portugal. I was born in the north of Portugal, and there was a big castle there from the 1100s, so the stone walls and suit of armor in the dining area create an image of home.”
Noting that Portuguese cuisine is heavy on seafood, Pinto said that his homeland’s menu emphasizes a great variety of dishes in unusual, unexpected combinations. A signature dish of Lisbon Café, he said, is Mariscada com Molho Verde ou Branco, a luscious seafood combo in a green or white wine sauce. However, in addition to many meals centered on lobster, shrimp and fresh fish, other popular items on the menu place a greater emphasis on meat. For example, Chanfana de cabrito is comprised of braised goat in red wine, and Costeleta de porco a princesa is a traditional concoction comprised of pork and clam.
“This dish comes from an area in Portugal where there are a lot of flatlands where they raise pork, and it’s located right near the Atlantic Ocean, so we combine the seafood and the pork,” he said. “That’s why a dish such as Costeleta de porco a princesa stands out…it’s one of our specialties.”
Running two successful restaurants is something that Pinto said that he and his brother are immensely proud of. He attributes the success to three important ingredients; their good food, hard work and most importantly, their valued customers.
“To be honest, this has been above our expectations,” he said. “We hoped to do well, but we never expected it to be this fast, especially with the economy the way it is. There’s a lot of competition around here, especially on Old Country Road. We knew it would be a challenge, but we gave it our best try and it’s really been wonderful.”
To find out more about Lisbon Café, visit their website at www.lisboncaferestaurant.com.