“Cozinha” is the Portuguese word for “kitchen” and is the inspiration behind one of the latest additions to the diverse spectrum of food establishments in our neighborhood. Cozinha Latina (37 Greenpoint Ave) is derived from “the one room in every home that represents family, love, community, and celebration” in Latin American culture and offers an array of dishes, from small to large plates, drawn from this tradition.
But it isn’t exactly a place where you can expect a home cooked meal, like your grandmother made it. It is the brainchild of a team of some well-established veterans of the culinary space, who have transformed what was formerly a sports bar into an urban tropical oasis with an eclectic menu.
Now before you get in a huff about the end of Red Star Bar, you should know that the same owners are behind Cozinha Latina and have partnered up with the local restaurateurs who have brought us neighborhood favorites including Anella and Jimmy’s Diner. Red Star Bar was packed during major sporting events but on most nights it was less than a third full. It’s gotten a pretty nice facelift in this reincarnation and is open for more open hours now. It’s full dining in the evenings and coffee & pastries during the day. The second floor lounge was still under construction when we visited but looks like it will be a perfect space to hang out or host private events when it’s done.
Of course the highlight of Cozinha Latina is its tasty array of food and drinks. Chef Shanna Pacifico’s Brazilian heritage and cooking chops (pun intended!) gained from long stints at farm-to-table joints like Savoy and Back Forty come around full circle in Cozinha’s dishes, which are paired with creative cocktails crafted by Brett Helms of Uncle Boons.
If you love tapas-style eating as we do, you’ll appreciate Cozinha’s range of different sized options. Starting with some small bites, we worked ourselves up as far as a medium plate. We didn’t end up having room in our full stomachs for any of the large plates; what we found is that the small plates were in fact not that small. For drinks, we had the smoky, spicy, mezcal based “El David Peterstein” and “The Doheny,” a sweet citrusy gin-based cocktail.
The 6 Minute Farm Egg is a hearty little dish that subtly adds buttery goodness and exotic seasonings to the perfectly soft boiled egg. It was served alongside one of my personal favorite things to eat, Pao De Quiejo, a freshly baked chewy cheese bread.
Cozinha’s handling of vegetables will convert the most stubborn carnivore because the dishes are prepared with an impressive burst of complex flavors. And though most of what we had were from the small plates category, the portions were sizable. We had the Grilled Chayote & Artichokes, Shaved Collard Greens, Whole Roasted Delicata Squash, and a side of Autumn Slaw. You wouldn’t think spice, cream, and tanginess can blend well enough to please your taste buds but somehow they did.
A Brazilian influenced food experience would be incomplete without good ole meat. So to close out the night, we nibbled on a bit of the Pork Riblets – tender, fatty, with hints of sweet and spicy.
In Cozinha Latina, every detail from the food, drinks, and design are well thought out to provide a dining experience that is reminiscent of a tropical vibe in a distant part of the world without losing its urban American character. Graffiti by street artist Pixote sits alongside boxed greenery on its walls. It’s a tasteful reflection of the diverse nature of our neighborhood and the beautiful melting pot that is New York.