Samba: A Taste of Brazil in Montclair

Take a trip to the lively, sultry, and colorful country of Brazil by visiting Samba, a delicious, certified gluten-free restaurant located at 7 Park Street in Montclair serving up homestyle Brazilian fare in a stylish, rustic space. And we can attest that the food is just as incredible as the decor. After all, not only is Samba a local favorite but it has received rave reviews by The New York Times, New Jersey Monthly Magazine, and more. Read on to learn more about Samba, the delicious Brazilian and gluten-free restaurant in Montclair.

The Vibe

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Despite the challenges, the restaurant industry faced during the pandemic, Owner and Executive Chef Ilson Gonçalves could not pass up the opportunity to grow Samba when the space next door to his current restaurant on Park Street became available in mid-2020.

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Goncalves spent the rest of the year renovating the new 1,000-square-foot dining room, transforming it into a tropical fantasy with rustic wooden tables, bamboo chandeliers, and a canopy of florals suspended from the lofty ceiling. Most of the decor was brought back from trips to Brazil.

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The focal point is a custom-designed mural of Gonçalves’ idol, Portuguese-born Brazilian entertainment legend Carmen Miranda. “Carmen Miranda inspires me. She made a major contribution to Brazilian culture and brought our national music, the samba, to a global audience.

She is one in a long line of women who have shaped my life and helped me along my journey,” explains Gonçalves, who celebrated the restaurant’s 10th anniversary in December.

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“As a Brazilian man in America, I strive to represent the best of my country and bring my culture, in the form of authentic, homestyle-Brazilian cuisine, to guests.”

The outdoor dining space is just as chic. With colorful umbrellas, rustic details, and florals galore, you’ll find it hard to believe you are dining out on Park Street.

The Food

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In 2020, Gonçalves was diagnosed with Celiac disease, which sped up his plans to make Samba’s menu gluten-free and safe for others who like himself cannot have gluten in their diets. Samba became a validated gluten-free safe spot through the Gluten-Free Food Service (GFFS) Program, making it the only independently owned restaurant in the state to hold this distinction.

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Samba uses naturally GF yuca starch to create everything from traditional pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) to the signature gnocchi primavera to the flourless cake with dulce de leche and passion fruit sauce.
Don’t forget to bring your favorite beer or wine to complement the delicious and unique flavors – Samba is a BYOB.

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How It Came To Be

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Ilson Gonçalves opened Samba in Montclair in December 2010 as a deli with a few Brazilian specials. Today, the gluten-free menu is a reflection of the authentic cooking he grew up eating at his mother’s home and restaurant in Blumenau, Brazil.

The Samba philosophy is simple, with high integrity and an emphasis on fresh vegetables, fish, and herbs, all served in a romantic, rustic space with antique copper pots and vintage tableware. Gonçalves is a graduate of Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and author of The Samba Montclair Cookbook.

Samba is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Reservations are required. Stay up to date with the eatery via Instagram at @sambamontclair.


Written by:

Lauren Wilson-Policke was born and raised in Bergen County and made her way to Montclair in 2016. After years of working for fashion brands in NYC she decided to launch her own PR and Social Media company, LWP Public Relations in Montclair in 2017. When she’s not managing her robust roster of fashion and lifestyle clients, you can find her enjoying the local restaurant scene, supporting small businesses, searching for live music and happy hour and when the temperatures hit above 70°, you can catch her on the GSP heading down the shore.