As mayor of Curitiba in Brazil, Jaime Lerner turned heads with his forward-thinking schemes. He took the kids off the streets by paying them to clean them up and had fishermen angling for rubbish so they could work off-season. He still lives in the city, working as an architect and urban planner.
“I don’t like the phrase ‘last meal’. I just got out of hospital, so I’m a little afraid of that title! I don’t normally go to restaurants. I learnt from a Portuguese sculptor that people ought to make at least one meal a day but I often come here, sometimes with my family, sometimes with friends, sometimes with work associates.
If it were my last meal, I’d want it to take place with all those people 30 years from now. I would order the gnocchi and a really good red wine, I’d sit and eat with everyone all together in one place. Jacobina serves simple Italian food, and my favourite is the gnocchi all’amatriciana. I found the restaurant by word of mouth, and it’s only a kilometre from my office. It’s small, with a mezzanine, a downstairs and a basement. It doesn’t look like much but I love its ambience.
I travel a lot, and my favourite food is Spanish because of the freshness of the ingredients, especially the seafood. The next best is Italian, then anything in New York. For me, part of dining is conversation; great restaurants should be great meeting places. It’s no good if a restaurant is too loud or too quiet. A long time ago when we had gas lighting in Curitiba there used to be a man who would ‘tune’ the lights. I would like to be a fine-tuner of a conversation. I believe that the ambience of a restaurant is much like that of a city – a combination of the sounds of conversation, music and everything in between. Food without the sauce of conversation becomes a bad meal.
At present I’m working on a project for Brasilia’s 50th anniversary, a transportation plan for Rio de Janeiro, and on the revitalisation of an important area of São Paulo. I’m also working on how to teach kids about sustainability – how to avoid climate change. We’re actually working on a movie for children, one that the kids can learn from and take home to teach their folks.
Curitiba is a place of constant innovation, which is why the transport network still works. We have an excellent quality of life and we have become a benchmark for many cities. I love our streets, parks, transport system, healthcare and environmental conscience. The only thing we lack is a good wine.
Internationally, I’m a huge fan of Rome, New York and Paris. In Rome I love the informality with which you encounter history, and Paris is a city of pre-prepared stages, of grand boulevards. New York is simply unique. My advice for revitalisation depends on the city. The only constant is that it’s possible to change a city for the better in three years. It’s not a question of resources or scale but of volition – like a great meal!”
Located in a middle-class neighbourhood near Jardim Ambiental, Délio Canabrava’s three-year-old Cantina Jacobina seems larger inside than out. Housed in a modest 80-year-old wooden house of the type built by Polish immigrants, the green façade hides a brightly painted interior full of vintage magazines, tiles and antiques. The menu is Italian and the clientele split between locals and business people.
Rua Itupava 1094, Alto da XV, Curitiba, + 55 41 3078 0010
“Not for me, I’m watching what I eat!”
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
100g pancetta, diced
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed peperoncino
1 finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
450g cherry tomatoes, chopped
350g fresh gnocchi
3/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
Fry 1/3 of the pancetta in olive oil until crisp. Transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Reserve for garnish. Add olive oil, garlic and peperoncino to pan; fry until peperoncino darkens. Add onion and remaining pancetta; fry until onion is translucent and fat drains from pancetta. Stir in vinegar. Add tomatoes; simmer for 5 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup gnocchi cooking liquid. Return gnocchi to same pot. Add tomato sauce and cheese to gnocchi and toss, adding some of the cooking liquid if dry. Transfer gnocchi to bowl. Sprinkle with pancetta and serve.