NEW YORK — “We serve French food in bikinis.”
As tag lines go, that one certainly makes for an eye-catching welcome to the new Upper East Side eatery Buzina Pop. But restaurant-goers, be warned — the slogan refers to the hearty eats, a culture-clash cuisine of Brazilian and French elements, and not to the waitstaff. They’re dressed in festive uniforms created by designer Nicole Romano.
Located at the southwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 73rd Street, the two-story Buzina Pop is the latest venture from veteran restaurateur Patrick Laurent. For the first time, however, he’s brought in his wife, Stephanie Monserrat-Laurent, as partner, who also owns the Buzz Brazil boutique a few blocks south.
So how, exactly, do two self-proclaimed “very French” individuals — he’s from Metz; she, Monaco — open a restaurant that’s largely a Brazilian affair? According to Laurent, the idea came from the couple’s other endeavor together, their four-year-old daughter, Tohsca.
“It’s because of her,” he explains. “Her nanny is from Goiânia, in central Brazil. Tohsca was really starting to pick up the language and so we went to Brazil for her.” He and his wife weren’t strangers to the land of Carnaval, but after spending nearly two weeks there, making friends in restaurant, wine and fashion circles, Laurent says, “We saw the country in a different light.”
The menu at Buzina Pop, created by chef Adriano Suppa Ricco, includes plenty of Brazilian mainstays like beef, farofa and sweet avocado desserts. But the hand of the Gauls is there, too, resulting in such fare as tuna tartare in a cachaça-molasses reduction and grilled lobster with deconstructed caipirinha and coconut quinoa. Everything else, though, is unmistakably Brazilian. The restaurant’s name was inspired by an iconic figure in the South American country’s pop-culture landscape: clown-like Chacrinha, a popular variety show entertainer of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. “He had a show on TV [‘Buzina do Chacrinha’],” explains Monserrat-Laurent, “and every time he came on stage, he had this crazy buzina [Portuguese for horn].”
The restaurant interior, designed by architect Felipe Protti, follows a similar sense of whimsy. The upstairs curtains display an oversize print of a clothesline — undies and all — over Rio de Janeiro; cushioned stools are made from old cashew tins. There’s a wall hanging of a haloed dove surrounded by flora and (look closely) tiny bikini-bottomed bums. And those two-tone floor graphics on the first and second levels take after sidewalk patterns in Ipanema and Copacabana, respectively.
This story first appeared in the May 8, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
All of it, of course, from the tiles and lighting fixtures to the custom-made chairs and crocheted cushions, comes from Brazil. Well, with one exception: In a corner on the second floor, there’s a series of picture frames starring — who else? — fille Tohsca.