It’s been almost a year since Lucia Corba began serving Azorean specialties at her Churrascaria – Raizes, at the intersection of Nassau Avenue and McGuinness Boulevard, and the unique cuisine offered at the establishment is continuing to win over new foodies everyday.
Corba’s family hails from the São Miguel Island, part of the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, one of Portugal’s two autonomous territories, located in the North Atlantic Ocean, close to 850 miles from the mainland.
“Raizes means roots, and this restaurant is about my journey and my roots,” said Corba. “It’s a gastronomical journey if you will, of the foods I’ve come to love growing up and would like to share with others.”
Corbas was born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, home to the country’s largest Portuguese immigrant population. Corba said her family wasn’t well off, but her fondest memories are sitting around the dinner table, and relishing her mother’s food. In fact, Corba said, her mother’s cooking made their home the go-to hangout spot among neighbors.
Her mother’s recipes comprise a large part of the menu now available at Raizes.
But Corba hasn’t always worked in the food business. At one point, she had aspirations of becoming a fashion designer and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology to study fashion design and marketing – but she found the world to be too superficial.
“There was a lot of backstabbing,” said Corba. “It all seemed a bit too plastic for me. I love designing still, but I didn’t like the background politics.”
Her love of food beckoned, so, to get acquainted with the business, she started at the bottom.
Over the course of 23 years in the industry she has worked the gamut – bus girl, dishwasher, hostess, cook, worked at nightclubs and lounges, and even started her own catering businesses.
Opening a restaurant was a natural genesis of her long-standing interests and her cumulative experiences.
But creating the restaurant, much like starting any new business, was no easy feat.
The Churrascaria was, “2 years, 4 months, and 2 days,” in the making, according to Corba.
She along with her husband, Peter Corba, purchased the former auto repairs shop just over two years ago, and were faced with the onslaught of Hurricane Irene and Sandy before the duo finally opened the doors to the Churrascaria in December last year.
Her husband works in industrial design, and Corba too has built on her interests in the design world while creating the space. The rustic, wooden, wrought-iron like feel to the establishment makes it seem as though you might be perched on the edge of a boat, floating along the Atlantic, as you dig into lavish spread the restaurant has to offer.
Rodizio – the meat platter with barbecued chicken, beef, pork, linguica, and turkey, served with rice, beans, kale, and potatoes; the Bacalhau Corn Natas – shredded salted cod, sautéed onions layered with sliced potato in a light parm cream sauce au gratin; and Mariscos Na Cataplana – clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp and monk fish simmered in spicy red sauce or garlic molho verde are just some of the favorites at the Churrascaria.
For Corba, Greenpoint seemed like a natural choice to open her business – she has lived in the neighborhood for over 10 years.
“I really feel a strong sense of community in this neighborhood,” said Corba. “I love the diversity in this neighborhood, and I just love the corner my restaurant is located on.”
Now, Corba is leaning on her past experiences in the catering industry and offering up her space for a variety of events – birthdays, christenings and engagement parties have already been held in the large space, and last weekend Raizes played host to a wedding – a couple Corba accommodated at the last minute after their plans fell apart because of the ReBar scandal.
Raizes Churrascaria Bar & Grill, 139 Nassau Avenue, 718-389-0088, open Tue-Fri 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Sat 10:30 a.m. to 12 a.m., Sun 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., for more information visit http://raizesgreenpoint.com.