I’m not on many models’ speed dial, so I was surprised when New York-based Brazilian model Andressa Junqueira called me to tell me about a new restaurant that she and her husband chef Carlos Varella just opened in Rockaway last week.
Called Beach Bistro 96, it’s taking over the space previously occupied by Anna Bow (and before that occupied by Veggie Island) to offer “Brazilian internacional fusion” fare, with dishes ranging from Brazil’s national dish feijoada (black beans with pork meat, rice, kale, orange slices and farofa), served on Wednesdays and Saturdays, to ratatouille and temaki sushi hand rolls.
Varella has also worked as a professional model for Hugo Boss and other high-end fashion houses (but maybe the bistro’s Facebook page cover photo of his face already tipped you off to that). He started out surfing in Brazil at an early age, became a professional surfer, and then fell into modeling–but realized he was more passionate about stainless steel than blue steel.
While modeling in Mexico he started to get into Mexican cuisine, and, after meeting Junqueira there in 2006, the two of them married and eventually moved to New York in 2010. Varella started working under chef Emmanuel Piqueras at Panca, a Peruvian restaurant in the West Village, and in 2014 enrolled in the French Culinary Institute. After he graduated last year he started looking for a restaurant space in Brooklyn. That’s when he met restauranteur David Selig (of Rockaway Taco fame).
Selig invited him to “pop-up” at Summer Shift, a rotation of Latin guest chefs at the Rockaway Taco shack, along with Leyla and Ximena Yrala of Chicks to Go last summer and the name of the pop-up, Neighbors, soon became reality; Selig offered Varella the open space adjoining the former Rockaway Taco (which will soon be filled by Santa Salsa— a bit of an upgrade from the boardwalk cart they used to serve their Venezuelan-style hot dogs with potato chips last year).
The grand opening of the banana-wallpapered bistro took place last Saturday, with a DJ friend of Junqueira’s playing music, a couple of her model friends in attendance, and family, she said. Until their liquor license comes through, virgin caipirinhas will be served.
Finally, in other 96th Street Beach news, La Newyorkina has been confirmed as returning with their paletas.
Beach Bistro 96 is located at 95-19 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Hours are 7 days a week, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., however, hours may be extended to include brunch service in the near future (read as: when the coffee machine is working). The website is in the works, so check Facebook for updates.