November 26, 2003 News & Features » Cover Story


Julio Willinski 

Ipanema Grill Brazilian Churrascaria

T“here’s something naturally comforting about an all-you-can-eat dining experience. Minds are instantly set at ease with the first piled-on plate and no matter how much you stuff in, there’s always more. Take it to another level when the all-you-can-eat is served tableside, brought to you on a continual basis by stately, handsome gauchos until you finally raise your hand and say: “Please, no more.”

Julio Willinski, chef and owner of Ipanema Grill Brazilian Churrascaria, has brought Brazilian barbecue to Richmond. Once the staple food of cowboys in Southern Brazil, this style, now called churrascaria de rodizio, is popular all over the world. Meats are brought tableside on long, metal skewers, and include spit-roasted sirloin, lobster, chicken, lamb and turkey wrapped in bacon. Skewers are brought out one at a time, and diners are offered one piece of meat from each skewer, allowing plenty of time to savor each tasty bite.

Cooking styles are simple. Red meats are merely rock-salted before graduating to the rotisserie, while white meats are marinated overnight in a combination of garlic, white wine and lemon. At a substantial buffet that accompanies the meal, fried yuca, polenta cakes and bananas warm in metal tins next to steaming pans of black beans, braised shrimp in coconut sauce and hearts of palm salad.

Many chefs make the mistake of overseasoning, which Willinski says kills the flavor of the meat. He should know. Ipanema is not his first churrascaria. Before moving to Richmond in 1989, he owned a successful Brazilian restaurant for more than 7 years. He has a genteel way about him, and his fair skin and light brown hair belie his South American roots. Many Eastern European immigrants settled in Southern Brazil, whereas in the North, most Brazilians are of Portuguese decent, he tells me.

He adds that as a child growing up on a farm in Southern Brazil, churrasco was mainly reserved for special occasions. Everyday food included the Brazilian staple, feijoada, black beans made with dried pork and served with white rice and a stiff caipirinha, a potent cocktail made from sugar-cane liquor, lime juice and sugar. In his country, two-hour lunches are common and three-hour dinners never begin before 8 p.m. A typical wedding celebration will go for three days and encompass a multitude of bounteous breakfasts, lunches and dinners. And of course, plenty of churrasco.

Brazilian food is celebration food. It’s for sharing a tall yarn over a few caipirinhas. It’s for allowing yourself an unrestrained evening of pure gluttony every once in a while. It means going for that last piece of cake with confidence. Because there’s nothing wrong with that. Just ask Julio.

Ipanema Grill Brazilian Churrascaria: Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday. Sunday brunch. 12379 Gayton Road. 740-9083.

Brazilian Feijoada
(serves 10-15)

1 pound black beans
1 pound smoked ham hocks
1 pound Mexican chorizo, pepperoni or Brazilian linguica
« pound chunk of lean Canadian bacon or Brazilian carne seca
« pound smoked pork or beef ribs
3-4 strips of smoked bacon
« pound lean pork
« pound lean beef
1 large onion
7 garlic cloves,br>2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Salt to taste
Black pepper


Soak beans overnight in large container. Next morning, cook beans for 4 to 5 hours at low heat.

Place ham hocks, chorizo, ribs and Canadian bacon in deep pan with plenty of water and bring to a boil. Change water and bring to a new boil, repeating the procedure at least 3 times to tenderize cured meats and remove excess fats.

In a large frying pan, sauté onion and garlic using either vegetable or olive oil (smoked bacon strips optional) for 2 or 3 minutes. Toss in cubed pork and beef. Sauté an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Mash 5-10 tablespoons of beans and add to large pot. The resulting paste will thicken sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 garlic cloves all chopped up, along with vinegar. Stir, heat over medium fire for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to contents of frying pan.

Let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add contents of frying pan to the beans and let boil at medium heat for 1-2 hours.

Serve over rice. Bon appetit! Enjoy!

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