I am blessed to have found a delightful tasca right in my own neighborhood of Lisbon. This is a wonderful little family restaurant that so dear to my heart that I had to have it featured on my recent TV debut on House Hunters International. It is a place that was literally right under my nose – located just downstairs from my first tiny apartment in Campo de Ourique (before I moved to our current apartment which is just a short walk away). I hate to say that it doesn’t look like anything special (because it does), but the tasca is a simple little place, no name on the front, just two white doors with a handwritten menu posted in the window. The inside is a plain bar counter in the front which faces the open kitchen. The back area contains a small dining room. It is these kinds of humble little places that I’ve found provide the best food and service.
They are normally run by a family for many years, like João Gomes and his family, and serve delicious traditional home-style dishes that you would expect from a Portuguese mama. This is the case with Adelaide, João’s wife, who is the tasca’s sole “chef” and mother of Nuno, the tasca’s only server (along with João) who grew up playing in the restaurant’s store room and now, 27 years later, has his own little boy toddling around in his footsteps. Together they have a winning team. João’s exuberant and energetic hospitality will make you want to take him home with you (like one of my guests said!). Adelaide is a fantastic and very efficient cook, who prepares delicious regional recipes from their hometown of Ponte de Barca in the very north of Portugal. Some of my favorites are favas guisadas – fava beans stewed with pork and sausage and cilantro, and chanfana – aged goat marinated in Vinho Verde Tinto wine then stewed with onions, garlic and potatoes. They also offer an excellent Vinho Verde Tinto by the bottle. They serve it in traditional malgas – little ceramic bowls that people use to drink it in the Minho region, which also accentuates this deeply colored red wine made from the native Portuguese grape Vinhão, a rare type of red grape that also has blood red juice instead of the typical clear juice.
This wine is so unique that I had to include it in my tours, along with some of these traditional dishes. Additionally there is usually a selection fresh grilled fish during the week. Some examples include dourada (gilt-head bream), robalo (seabass), carapaus (mackerel) and sardinhas -sardines (in the summer). João takes pride in getting up before sunrise, six days a week to get the freshest fish “do mar” (from the sea), instead of farm-raised fish (normally what smaller restaurants have to buy) so he can guarantee the best quality and flavor for his customers. A full lunch at Tasca do João with the Vinho Verde Tinto wine is featured in my Eat & Drink Like A Local Morning tour and a wine sampling including the same wine with local cheese and cured meats there is featured in my Eat & Drink Like A Local Evening tour. For more information on the tasca, check out my Catavino post: “A Tasca do João: A Simple Portuguese Restaurant with a Passion for Hospitality”
Hope to see you at Tasca do João!