Welcome to OneYear In, a feature in which Eater Vegas talks with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their first anniversary.
Boteco opened on Eastern Avenue just a year ago, bring a menu of shareable plates, brunch, and tasting menus “with no borders or boundaries.” As owner Marcus Fortunato explains, “The name boteco or botequim and its concept derives from Brazil, but is present in many parts of the world, especially in Europe. It’s the neighborhood hangout where great food, drinks, and affordable prices, bring people together.” Here, Fortunato talks about the first year of Boteco with its “dishes paired with unique libations inspired by journeys and flavors they have discovered throughout the world.
What made you decide to open Boteco?
Marcus Fortunato: Several factors played a major significance in the decision to open Boteco. First and foremost, we wanted to create a space that we would want to go to. Other factors included the neighborhood where we live in, the relationship we have with vineyards and wine producers, and the pleasure we get by sharing our experiences through food and good times.
What have you learned in the first year of running Boteco?
MF: Local, neighborhood customers embrace and welcome new experiences. We constantly change our menus and wine lists depending on seasonal availability of products and a never ending list of dishes we would like to offer. We have found that our customers enjoy new flavors and dishes that may be common in certain parts of the world but unique to many who try them for the first time.
What were you thinking about in terms of design of the restaurant?
MF: Simplicity with elegance. We wanted to create a venue that replicated botecos in Brazil, bodegas in Spain, and neighborhood bistros in France. The ambience needed to blend with the proposal of unique dishes made to order, plated in an elegant manner and priced reasonably for the everyday neighborhood customer. We feel that our open kitchen and tavern feel to the dining room have achieved that goal. Dress up or dress down; you will be comfortable at Boteco.
Did you change the menu at all? If so, what was the menu testing process like?
MF: Change is part of the proposal. The menu at Boteco is the result of new flavors we encounter throughout our travels together with the availability of fresh ingredients we can source locally. As in most kitchens that don’t cook from frozen, packaged sources, “trial and error” plays a major role in the testing process.
Has Las Vegas embraced the location?
MF: We were coming off a five-year run from the Cooking Experience, where we had the opportunity to serve thousands of neighborhood customers interested in good food paired with reasonably priced wines. The previous venue had a limitation of only seating a maximum of 18 guests per night and concentrated mainly to the weekend business. We expanded the experience with open seating on a daily basis with more capacity but remained focused that the “experience” is as important as the quality of food and service. And the neighborhood welcomed the proposal with open arms.
Six months in, what changed?
MF: The complete menu, and six months from now, we will change again. We don’t want to have a cookie cutter approach to our product. A boteco worldwide is all about presenting the best dishes that can be offered with the best available products we can source. Our customers expect constant surprises and new flavors on a periodic basis.
What’s the most unexpected thing that happened in the first year?
MF: A table of three, comprised of a single mother and two children under the age of 10 sat down to dine with us. They ordered, caviar, escargots, mussels and clams, and our octopus entree. The kids ate it all up. We comped the whole meal. Any mother raising their kids without the need of a kids’ menu and with an open mind, should not pay for their contribution to chefs around the world.
How about the craziest thing?
MF: Social media reviews such as Yelp and others still confuse us. If you ask for the salt shaker, don’t write that the food was salty. Our 4.5 rating doesn’t do justice to the efforts our staff puts behind our product.
What’s the must-order dish of the moment?
Gnocchetti di zucca, a dish made with pumpkin dumplings and reggiano parmeggiano cream, created by a young chef in Parma, Italy, continues to be our most-ordered dish. The dish pairs well with most wines on our menu.
What’s on tap for the future?
MF: More change. Our summer menu will debut in June.
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