Mocotó has won the No Reservations Required category, for places where it's possible to turn up without a booking.
It all began with caldo de mocotó, the traditional Brazilian calf’s foot soup, after which this wildly popular São Paulo restaurant was named. Such was the demand for Seu Zé Almeida’s mocotó back in the day – there would be queues out of the door for it – that his modest neighbourhood grocery store has grown to become one of the most cherished names in Brazilian gastronomy.
Still located on the same street in the working class neighbourhood of Vila Medeiros, Mocotó (est.1973) is now directed by Almeida’s son, chef Rodrigo Oliveira. For Oliveira, Mocotó tells the story of his family and of his land, of Seu Zé’s journey from the ‘sertão’ (back country) to an ever-expanding city. “I believe that tradition and innovation are linked,” he says.
Visit Mocotó any day of the week, and you’ll see crowds of locals and tourists, labourers and celebrities packed round the linen-free tables, necking caipirinhas and chomping their way through Mocotó’s best-selling, secret recipe pork rinds (the restaurant sells as many as 2,700 orders a month). Weekends are the busiest times – the waiting time for a table can stretch to two or three hours then – when hungry diners pile in for specials of oxtail cooked in black beer with corn grits, roasted stuffed pork ribs with pineapple and manioc and (Sundays only) roasted lamb shoulder with corn couscous.
Waiter Josafá has been working the floor since 1980 and Seu Zé himself, now 80, still helps out. “The way we treat people, the way we welcome them at our restaurants is a really important part of the experience,” says Oliveira. “For me, hospitality as a general concept is the key.”