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After a 27-year run in their West Hollywood location peppered with accolades, beloved Brazilian eatery Bossa Nova will soon close its flagship location for good. However, their opportune new location at 8630 W Sunset Blvd., slated to open in February, will allow owners Aurelio Martins and Francisco Freire to operate an onsite bakery, reap the rewards of a full-service bar and seat their customers on an outdoor patio along buzzing Sunset Boulevard or on a balcony in view of the L.A. skyline.
A closing lease agreement necessitated the move; property owner Faring Group plans to build a hotel at the former 685 N Robertson Blvd Bossa Nova location, Martins told What Now Los Angeles.
Martins met his partner and chef Francisco Freire after moving to the states in 1989. Previously, Martins served in the Brazilian army, then studied accounting at Universidad de Rio de Janeiro before working as a trainee auditor. Freire was raised in the northern state of Bahia, where his affinity for cooking presented itself at a young age, and moved to Los Angeles with only $50 in his pocket after a brief stint as a credit adviser. During the ’90s, Freira attended Cordon Bleu Culinary School and cooked at a restaurant called Cafe Brasil.
In 1993, the pair opened the now-closing West Hollywood location, naming the burgeoning restaurant after the bossa nova style of dance—”it translates a lot with our culture, lifestyle and music.”
Just in 2020, Bossa Nova was named one of the “Top Restaurants in Town” by Zomato, the “Best Brazilian Cuisine in Los Angeles” by Lux Life Magazine and a “Top Traveler’s Choice” by TripAdvisor. Over the last ten years, the establishment has remained a Yelp! favorite and has received nods from Thrillst and even a Zagat rating.
Four additional Bossa Nova locations have since opened: one in West Los Angeles, another in Hollywood, a third in South Bay and the most recent in the town of Hawthorne. A fifth site is even slated for Downtown L.A. at 321 W Olympic Blvd.—but the loss of their original location, a reminder of their roots, still is heart-rending.
“It’s extremely sad. This business should not get emotional, but the truth of the matter is that we are very sad—[our Robertson Boulevard location] is where everything started,” said Martins.
A lexical gap, we don’t have an exact equivalent to the Brazilian Portuguese word “saudade”—the closest English parallel is “bittersweet.” Essentially, the word encapsulates an existential pining, tinged with hopefulness, over something beyond one’s control. In Brazil, the word is used liberally in everyday speech to bemoan less profound yearnings, like a childhood memory, a shuttered neighborhood bar or a close friend that you haven’t seen for a few months. But the versatile word is equally appropriate for voicing the embittered anguish for a lost lover or a loved one.
“We were sharing pictures with our old friends, our first employees that were there,” said Martins. “It’s emotional to say the least even though you should not be doing business with emotions—but we’re Brazilians, we feel strongly. There’s a lot of history there. So many friends and customers passed by…It’s been an emotional ride, these last two months.”
Also in Brazilian Portuguese, the expression “matar saudades” roughly means “to kill the longing.” In practice, the phrase is analogous to our expression “catching up with someone.” Perhaps the ache of the lost space can be “killed,” or at least offset, by the opportunities afforded by the Sunset Plaza property.
“At the same time, we’re very excited. Sunset Plaza is a hell of a good place,” said Martins. “It’s bigger, more modern and it definitely will be an upgrade for the customers.”
On the new building’s second floor, diners will soon gaze out onto the “entire city of L.A.” On the new front patio, patrons can eat their salmão grelhado or “Philly style” Copacabana with a front seat to the hustle of the Sunset Strip—”every time there is a movie in L.A. they’re shooting in the Sunset Plaza.”
The property, which formerly housed Obica Mozzarella Bar Pizza e Cucina, includes over 600 parking spaces. Martins said this will be a boon for his customer base, who often travel from out of town struggled to find parking at the West Hollywood location.
Yucca cake, empadao de frango, empadinhas and other Brazillian baked goods will be made in Bossa Nova’s new bakery alongside American staples like cupcakes and croissants to eat for the restaurant and distribution. At the Sunset Plaza restaurant’s full bar, martinis, Bloody Mary’s and mojitos can now be mixed for patrons. Martins and Freire are devising a line of juices made from the pulp of tropical fruits and will serve a number of Brazilian libations upon their reopening, including caipirinhas (made from fermented sugarcane juice, lime and sugar), cachaça (the aforementioned fermented sugarcane juice, which Brazilians often spill a drop of in the name of the saints) and sangria.
Forced to relocate their popular restaurant, Martins and Freira had to “descascar o abacaxi,” or “peel the pineapple,” and find a new location elsewhere in West Hollywood. Their situational pineapple has been peeled—now, the pair and their team will make new history, peeling real pineapples in their new kitchen along the Sunset Strip.