Overlooking the Manhasset Bay harbor on Shore Road, Bossa Nova offers traditional Brazilian cuisine, rounding out Port's diverse variety of ethnic restaurants. Bossa Nova is owned and operated by Michael Rodizzio, who also owns the popular Romántico restaurant.
Upon entering, one is struck by the colorful murals that cover the wall and ceiling. Hand painted, they were inspired by the "Dream of Venus," a pavilion created by the surrealist Salvador Dali for the 1939 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Park. The pavilion, one of the first modern art "installations," was the subject of a multimedia exhibition created by the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami and shown at the Queens Museum of Art in summer of 2003. In keeping with the name ("Bossa Nova" is a Brazilian jazz form, rooted in a "Carnaval"-type of jazz), a large plasma TV monitor plays scenes from the Carnaval in Brazil, including the popular singer Daniela. Interspersed with the music and dancing are views into Bossa Nova's kitchen. A large picture window provides a view of our beautiful harbor, and in summer there is alfresco dining.
Bossa Nova's specialty is the traditional radizio, a seemingly endless supply of spit-roasted meats (churrascaria) and accompaniments. We began with a delicious and unusual potato salad and a tossed salad whose ingredients included mesclun, tomatoes, grapes, red beets, oranges and pears with a tasty and light vinaigrette dressing. Another wonderful side dish was fried fingers of yucca (a root vegetable), far tastier and lighter than any French fries we have had. Fried bananas (the sweet ones, not plátanos) were also offered. At our table, the basket of freshly baked cheese bread disappeared quickly, and was just as quickly replaced.
The main event, however, was the meats, all grilled on a giant rotisserie specially created for the restaurant. The meat selections and the distinctive marinades vary from day to day. We began with a succulent chicken breast wrapped in bacon, and proceeded to fresh pork tenderloin followed by a delicious smoked ham with pineapple. Every night, said Rodizzio, they have two different kinds of steak served with a unique, homemade steak sauce. We sampled both. The sirloin was very tender and perfectly done, brown on the outside and pink inside. The aged rib eye was a special cut, nicely marbled. They also served a sensational sausage -- spicy, but not too hot. Each night the restaurant also offers a different specialty meat; the night we visited, it was kangaroo, a sweet meat, spiced with coriander. Other choices have included venison and alligator. Next (can you believe this?) came shish kebab-style lamb interspersed with peppers and onions - fresh and spicy, although the lamb was a little strong for our taste. They also offered at least one fish - the night we were there, it was salmon. Each diner is given a card with a green ("go") or red ("stop") side to indicate whether he or she is ready for another serving. As one satisfied customer said, "You don't leave hungry."
The atmosphere is one that you might expect in an urban environment - sophisticated and lively, but not loud. Bossa Nova is the kind of restaurant that is probably best appreciated with a group. Kids love it. They appreciate having so many choices, and are usually captivated by the video.
In response to customer requests, Bossa Nova has recently introduced an a la carte menu for those who want an alternative to the radizio. Included on the alternative menu are vegetable lasagna, paella (both a meat-eater and a vegetarian version), salmon, Chilean sea bass, and, only on Saturdays, feiojoada, the traditional Brazilian black bean stew. Entrée prices range from about $20 to $34 (for prime rib), and include all of the "all-you-can-eat" side dishes that are normally served with the radizio. The radizio is priced at $26.95 for dinner, not including drinks, coffee or dessert. ($14.95 for kids.) Bossa Nova is also open for lunch, priced at $14.95 for the radizio and $8 to $10 for salads or sandwiches.
The desserts are outrageous. Our favorite was the "Rio Explosion," an individual chocolate soufflé, served warm with vanilla ice cream. Also delicious were the caramel apple pie, with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, and the bourbon pecan pie.
They have an extensive, although somewhat pricey, wine list, and a good selection of other drinks, including six different kinds of martinis, caipirinhas (drinks made from Brazilian rum), and a variety of after-dinner drinks. We sampled a Brazilian cola flavored with guaraná, the caffeine-like plant, which had an interesting flavor, but we don't suggest trying it late at night.
Service was attentive and unobtrusive. The waiters were knowledgeable about the different dishes.
Bossa Nova is at 55 Shore Road, just south of the Stop & Shop shopping center. We suggest reservations. Hours are noon to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Telephone 516-767-8877; fax 516-767-2430. Delivery is available.