Diners can 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.
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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Chef Ilson 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.
The focal point is a custom-designed mural of Chef Ilson’s 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,” explained Chef Ilson.
“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,” he said.
The outdoor dining space is just as chic. With colorful umbrellas, rustic details, and florals galore, guests will find it hard to believe they are dining out on Park Street.
In 2020, Chef Ilson 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.
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 BYOB.
How It Came To Be
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. Chef Ilson is a graduate of Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and the 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.