Take a trip to Rio at this Brazilian gem on Española Way

Whole snapper at Boteco Copacabana on Espanola Way in Miami Beach.
Whole snapper at Boteco Copacabana on Espanola Way in Miami Beach.

Boteco Copacabana is the only Brazilian restaurant in a sea of Italian eateries on Española Way in Miami Beach.

A boteco is a neighborhood hangout to meet friends for a drink and bite. Here, find geometric wave-patterned black-and-white tile floors like the promenade flanking Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. The world famous beach is named after the virgin de Copacabana, the patron saint of Bolivia and a shrine to her is on the beach.

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There’s a bar near the entrance and a small cozy dining room with a wine cellar, but most customers sit outside under umbrellas. On Saturday nights, samba dancers in skimpy attire shake and swivel in front of diners.

The owners are a husband-and-wife team with Wael Chaal from Damascus, Syria, and Emmanael Coiana from Sardinia, Italy. They hired chef Michal Nuevo from Rio, who cooks authentic dishes including feijoada on Sundays.

Start with these dishes

Get a mixed basket of pasteis or fried empanadas stuffed with shredded beef, chicken with heart of palm, shrimp, and cheese and onion or get coxinha de frango (chicken croquettes) stuffed with Brazilian catupiry (cream cheese) with a pink mayo-ketchup dipping sauce.

Queijo grelhado at Boteca Copacabana on Espanola Way in Miami Beach.

Bolina de bacalhau are codfish croquettes and go with grilled octopus with onions sprinkled with salt and paprika. There’s also breaded and deep-fried squid rings, tail-on shrimp and cauliflower florets. Queijo grelhado is grilled provolone cheese topped with sliced tomatoes seasoned with salt, pepper and oregano. Linguica is Brazilian pork sausage sautéed with onions served with yuca fries.

Breaded and fried squid rings, shrimp and cauliflower florets at Boteca Copacabana on Espanola Way in Miami Beach.

Share these dishes

Get the mixed churrasco that brings skirtsteak, short ribs, flap steak, chicken and sausages with two sides. Any steak from a bone-in tomahawk to a picanha (top sirloin cap) comes with a blanket of fat that adds flavor and keeps the meat juicy when grilled. It can be topped with creamed spinach or mushrooms, gorgonzola cheese or sautéed onions.

A whole 2-pound grilled snapper with herbs comes with a baked potato, or get moqueca with tilapia or salmon and shrimp for the table with the seafood in a coconut milk and palm oil base with onions, and red and green bell pepper strips served with jasmine rice. Similar is bobo de camarao with shrimp in yuca cream and coconut milk.

Chicken stroganoff with potato sticks at Boteca Copacabana on Espanola Way in Miami Beach.

There’s also grilled ahi tuna steak and chicken stroganoff with rice and potato sticks, a dish that became popular dinner party fare in Brazil in the ’50s. Or get a pasta such as ricotta ravioli in pink vodka sauce with grilled lobster or zucchini pasta with olive oil, mushrooms, garlic and tomatoes.

Save room for dessert

Go across the pedestrian walkway to to Milani Gelateria and choose from a revolving roulette of a dozen gelato and sorbet flavors. Or stay put and get brigadeiro (Brazilian chocolate bonbons) or tart-sweet passion fruit mousse.

Boteco Copacabana, 437 Espanola Way, Miami Beach; 786-275-6193

Hours: Monday-Wednesday 5 p.m.-12:30 a.m., Thursday-Sunday noon-1 a.m.

Prices: Tapas $2-$16, entrees $13-$24, sides $3-$5, desserts $2-$5, gelato cups $6.40-$740, cones $5.40-$6.40

F.Y.I. Samba dance starts at 8:30 p.m. Saturday nights

437 Espanola Way, Miami Beach