PROVIDENCE – What do you get when you combine a businessman, a chef and an artist?
You get Fox Point’s brand new restaurant, a tapas bar named Aguardente for those looking for new cultural experiences.
The businessman is the owner Victor Pereira. In 2018, when Syrian refugee Youssef Akhtarin opened the much-loved Aleppo Sweets in Providence, it was with financial support from Periera and his wife Sandy Martin.
Today, September 22, he’s opening his own passion project to focus on culture, art, and of course, good ethnic food with a Rhode Island twist.
Her longtime friends, and now partners, are chef Natalia Paiva-Neves and artist Magda Leon.
Born in Portugal, Pereira said that Aguardente follows a story in his life. Like many older people, he and his parents sought to assimilate into the United States. He went to Boston University, worked in retail and real estate, working in many locations around the world.
What seems important now is to make sure that his legacy is not lost. It’s time to hang on to your Portuguese culture.
Following:Fox Point Market Owner Celebrated By Portuguese Community For 101st Birthday
Bold tapas dishes with art and culture
“The best way to do it is with food and spirits, as well as with art,” Pereira said.
In Paiva-Neves and Leon, he found like-minded friends. The chef was born in the Azores and the artist in Guatemala. They, too, believe in the importance of clinging to the cultures of their native lands.
Together, they created a new tapas bar, drawing inspiration from their roots and bringing a touch of Rhode Island.
The meaning of Aguardente
The name Aguardente refers to a Portuguese liqueur that translates to “fire water,” Pereira said. Unique imported spirits will also feature on the restaurant’s menu.
Paiva-Neves organized the menu. If her name sounds familiar to you, it’s because she ran O’Dinis, the Portuguese restaurant in East Providence.
She adopted Pereira’s concept by saying “People look for cultural experiences”.
She said she loved creating the new menu. “It has been great to let my artistic side run free,” she said, adding that she enjoyed many late nights trying out recipes in her kitchen.
It’s heavy seafood for a lot of the tapas. There are octopus dishes including a cold salad inspired by his son’s love for snail salad. A grilled octopus dish accompanies it with garlic shrimp.
Vegetarian dishes at Aguardente
After sitting down with a vegan for a tasting, Paiva-Neves added a range of vegetarian options. It really challenged her.
She thought of Paella, a Spanish dish made with seafood, chicken and rice, and wanted to make it a vegetarian version. But how? Then it came to her at 2 a.m. one night. She jotted down her thoughts on a notepad next to her bed. She mixed squash, zucchini and eggplant in a ratatouille-style dish.
She also created a white bean dip. A mushroom dish that starts with sautéed Rhode Island Co. mushrooms is spiced with sherry dressing and spread on slices of bread.
Dessert dishes include pastéis de nata, Portuguese custard pies for which she used puff pastry.
Port flights for dessert
After 10 a.m. Pereira said the menu would be for port flights with desserts and maybe mezcal cocktails depending on the candy.
Paiva-Neves has also organized many cocktails and created the Navigator with Portuguese gin. It is based on the Aviator. But she chose the name based on the fact that the Portuguese were among the world’s great navigators.
Of course, there are drinks with Aquardente which she calls high octane alcohol.
There are also Latin American cocktails including a Pisco sour.
Several Latin American menu items and drinks, including a pisco sour and mezcal cocktails, were inspired by the third partner, León and his Guatemalan roots. Think street tacos, vegan plantain patties filled with beans, and other dishes to share.
“It’s more than a restaurant,” she said. “I think we worked really hard to make it special so that people could enjoy the art, the food and the drink.”
León produced five murals that tell the story of an immigrant journey to the United States. She said she was inspired not only by her own story, but others as well. Born in Guatemala to parents who immigrated to Rhode Island but returned there for her birth, she spent her childhood between the two countries.
His murals tell a story, said León. “You are leaving your country. It is a sacrifice but you do it with hopes and dreams. There is a romantic notion, ”she said.
But there are big challenges and nothing is as easy as you think.
“The journey challenges you,” she said.
Native Americans aside, it’s a trip all families can relate to, she said.
“We run into people everywhere and we don’t know their history,” said León, adding how many people come here without a return ticket.
Pereira hopes all of these stories, food and drink will engage the community.
“I want this to be an experience in a conversational environment where people want to engage, present their stories and go on an adventure,” he said.
The restaurant’s design, by his wife, Sandy Martin, includes an inviting yellow patio designed to feel like a living room.
What to know if you go there:
The restaurant at 12 Governor Street has 74 seats and will be open Thursday through Sunday. Hours will be Wednesday and Thursday from 4:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday noon to 11:30 p.m .; and Sunday from noon to 8:30 p.m. Book or learn more at aguardente.com/