Suggestion to 2nd tier cities with tourist town aspirations: Follow Curitiba’s example and put up comprehensive wikitravel pages about your city. That way, you might entice a few travelers like us to visit. Curitiba is devoid of real attractions, but the city tries its best with plenty of themed green areas (there is a German park, one for the Ukranians, and even a Japanese one), good tourist infrastructure (lots of info centers albeit staffed with untrained staff, and an airport bus with wifi onboard), and a tourist bus to bring tourists around the sights. With less than a day in the city, we hopped on one of the open-top buses and caught some of the key man-made sights. Lunch was also on the bus route, with a stop at the traditional Italian enclave of Santa Felicidade.
Once a real Italian neighborhood, Santa Felicidade has now evolved into Curitiba’s premier dining strip. The main thoroughfare is lined with eateries, both humble and petite, as well as large and almost Las Vegas-esque, Roman columns and Pantheon-like designs not withstanding. Our restaurant of choice was Madalosso, a gargantuan restaurant the size of an airplane hangar. Reputed to seat up to 4,000+ people, its claim to fame was a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s (or at least Brazil’s) largest restaurant. We did not know what to expect, but wanted to try it out anyway, gimmicks and all.
Fortunately, any anxieties about food and service quality were displaced as we were ushered into a human-sized room filled with local families and some suits enjoying their Friday lunch. The service is brisk and professional, but in Brazilian tradition, very friendly. After seeing our deer caught in the headlights look when he unceremoniously loaded our table with an assortment of dishes, our server called the English speaking manager to explain the concept (the now all too familiar all you can eat rodizio), took our beverage orders, and left us to contend with our many plates of sides, salads and hot fried chicken. While the food is plain and mass-produced, we were surprised by how fresh the food tasted. We loved the deep-fried chicken dishes, one plain, the other scattered with golden garlic chips, hot, juicy and quite greaseless. The pan-fried chicken livers had a good char but retained some of the powdery softness of liver, and the deep fried sticks of polenta were simply addictive.
Pastas were a yawn in comparison, and one should skip the overcooked spaghetti in the over-salted and watery sauce. The gnocchi dressed in pesto and a generous smattering of sundried tomatoes was the exception to the rule and deserved seconds. But so do the hot dishes, so one has to pick his poison and choose wisely!
At 29 BRL per person, lunch at Madalosso was a surprising highlight of our sojourn in Curitiba and worth visiting.
Address: Avenida Manoel Ribas, 5875, Curitiba, Brazil