It is rare for a restaurant to be 40 years old in São Paulo. Especially since decades remain at the peak of popularity. Case of Famiglia Mancini, downtown.
Opened on May 10, 1980, it was born without a clear plan of how to settle down – but it was an immediate success thanks to luck, says owner Walter Mancini, now 78.
At the time in debt, working as a waiter, he bought the point pizzeria Zi Tereza on impulse, with borrowed money. It was in an effervescent part of the city, on Avanhandava Street, close to Nestor Pestana Street and bohemian references like the Gigetto canteen, where artists and theatergoers like TBC and Maria Della Costa headed, as well than customers from other regions. artistic, as the Excelsior and Record televisions were nearby.
On the first day at his first restaurant, with the house locked and no employees, hours after receiving the keys, Mancini saw a group looming at the door. Lelia Abramo, a great actress who also chaired the category union, arrived with an entourage after a disagreement next door, the always packed Gigetto.
Known to the class, Mancini improvised a dinner party with the cast (who also made a kitty to help him get started). And his restaurant has become a new benchmark in the world of theater in São Paulo.
The only son of an illiterate mother, born in a building next to the central market, since the age of ten, Mancini worked in the streets and in the Mercadão. But at age 17, he started working at night, in downtown nightclubs (like Ton-Ton and Cave).
He produced shows, lighting, sound design, administration; was a dancer, was a DJ. At the same time, he frequented the traditional canteens, led by an uncle who sang Neapolitan songs in restaurants.
Apart from an innovation (the antipasti table billed by the kilo), the Famiglia Mancini has followed the vein of canteens without a remarkable cuisine, but honest, abundant, not expensive (and in your case, relying on the sauce prepared by your mother, Mariannina, who already provided masses for historic canteens like Balilla).
With the money he was making from endless queues of customers, he ended up “adopting” Avanhandava Street, where he had lived, re-urbanizing, making this scenic section with flat sidewalks a full-blown scene. air, colorful lights and a fountain a tourist attraction.
Around this time, in 2000, Il Ristorante Walter Mancini opened, with a more sophisticated Italian atmosphere and menu and live jazz. Then came the Famiglia Mancini pizzeria; Madreperola, from the sea; the Migalhas cafeteria.
The houses employ 380 people who, before the pandemic, served more than 35,000 meals a month – using a ton of tomatoes (per day!), A ton of shrimp per month, as many as octopus – 90% of that just for the head quarter .
The most popular dishes here are – as in any São Paulo canteen – lasagna and parmigiana fillet, followed by seafood spaghetti and baked kid’s leg with potatoes and broccoli.
Today, in the slow recovery, Mancini serves 5,000 people per month. During the pandemic there were no layoffs, there were investments (for example, Walter Mancini’s reform): proactive, the entrepreneur lives plunged into millionaire debts (“since I have credibility and credit , I use ”) but he does not abandon his projects.
Within 130 meters of the block which has his face also his Calligraphia stationery / art store (he is an exquisite calligrapher), his daughter Rachel’s thrift store Gato Bravo Vintage Shop, and his workshop.
As “I owe everything to the theater world” (he says), Mancini has never failed to support the neighborhood, even creating the Piccolo Teatro, a professional stage open to the street, where free plays and music are played. presented. In fact, there is no shortage of music: the Walter Mancini restaurant has a beautiful jazz and bossa nova scene, and its different houses welcome around thirty musicians.
Grandson of Italians from Puglia, married for 38 years, three children, religious, athlete, abstinent (“I drank a lot more than I should have”), workaholic (barely sleeps), Mancini is a man of seven instruments.
Also a poet, but with a particular passion for the fine arts. Author of elegant canvases, meticulously dotted with delicate graphic and calligraphic elements, he decorates his restaurants with his own objects and sculptures which give an unexpected finesse to anyone who imagines a canteen environment.
Argentina Quino (1932-2020), creator of Mafalda, took his painting; “He said my line looked like Steinberg and he envied my use of colors,” he says proudly. His restaurant, by the way, is adorned with portraits of him and his gang designed by artist Ziraldo.
The revitalization of the city center, a topic now in vogue, had a forerunner in Walter Mancini – who always refused invitations to migrate to the gardens, developing his business in the corner where he was born.
Coincidentally, when he inaugurated the Famiglia Mancini, not far from there, he crawled a girl who was also born poor near the same Mercadão of her childhood, and who, since she was a child, worked in the surroundings. His name was Janaína and today, together with her husband Jefferson Rueda and his restaurants (A Casa do Porco, Bar da Dona Onça), he is a pillar of the same struggle to preserve the center of São Paulo.
When Rueda got married in 2005, Walter Mancini designed the invitation. As if to seal a tacit alliance around a dream that everyone achieves in their own way. In Mancini’s case, it unfolded in many passions and arts – the cuisine of which paved the way for his name to be inscribed in the city.