30 YEARS WITH PLANS TO EXPAND IN SOMI
When Carlos Silva arrived in Miami from his native Portugal in 1991, the serial entrepreneur never imagined he would soon be adding “restaurateur” to his resume. Today, Silva, 53, owns a trio of popular Portuguese restaurants – Old Lisbon – that includes his flagship restaurant on Coral Way, which just marked its 30th year, plus locations in SOMI’s town center and in Sunny Isles.
SOMI diners will soon notice some changes taking place to Old Lisbon on Sunset Drive as Silva expands into the space next door and gives the entire spot a refresh. While details are still being finalized, the “new” Old Lisbon will include a full bar, private dining room and additional indoor and outdoor seating, according to Silva. “It will have a more European ambiance, more upscale,” he says, adding that he’ll be able to accommodate 150 guests once work is completed later this year. “At no time will diners be inconvenienced,” he promises.
A TASTE OF PORTUGUESE CULTURE AND CUISINE
Silva believes the reason Old Lisbon is so popular is that it offers a true taste of Portuguese culture and cuisine. “A lot of Portuguese restaurants here Americanize their cuisine,” he says. “I’ve done well by not doing that, so I’ll keep on not doing that.”
Old Lisbon’s authentic dishes reflect executive chef Carlos Abreu’s love of the sea and his native Portugal, where he grew up in a coastal fishing village. Cod, a staple of Portuguese cuisine, appears throughout Old Lisbon’s menu, from Bolinhos de Bacalhau (codfish croquettes) and Bacalhau com Natas, (shredded cod with potatoes and cheese in a creamy sauce) to Bacalhau à Lagareiro (grilled cod fillet with onions, garlic, potatoes, and roasted peppers).
Other standout dishes at Old Lisbon include Feijoada de Mariscos, a typically Portuguese stew laden with clams, mussels, shrimp, squid, sausage, white beans and rice; Chouriço, grilled Portuguese sausage, Polvo Grelhado (grilled octopus in garlic sauce), and Bife à Portuguesa, tender steak layered with prosciutto, fried egg and sliced fried potatoes.
SOURCING THE FINEST FOOD AND WINE
Each year, Silva returns to Lisbon, where he still has family and business interests, for the “Flavors of Portugal” food fair serving the restaurant and retail trade. Here, Silva carefully sources the highest quality fish and seafood, olive oils, wines and more for his restaurants.
Silva believes that wine is an important part of any meal and he personally curates Old Lisbon’s 100-label wine list. He also works with private wineries throughout Portugal to produce private-label wines for his restaurants, including a crisp vinho verde that pairs perfectly with fish and seafood dishes in our warm climate. “I always try to get some of the region’s best wine values,” he says.
TAKING THE HELM AT OLD LISBON
Silva, whose business success extends beyond hospitality, remains involved in his family’s construction materials business in Portugal. He also serves as president of Arsi Care Group, the Miami-based home health care company he founded in 1997. So how, one wonders, did Silva end up in the restaurant business?
After moving to Miami, Silva was living in the Brickell area and one day in 1991 he was visiting his pharmacy on Coral Way and S.W. 17th Avenue. On the opposite corner, he spied a “Coming Soon” sign for a Portuguese restaurant called Old Lisbon. Intrigued, and nostalgic for the true flavors of his homeland, Silva was among the restaurant’s very first customers and, before long, one of its most loyal. He liked Old Lisbon so much, he became a partner in 1992 and the next year took the helm as its proud new owner.
Silva’s success on Coral Way encouraged him to open a second location in 2010, in SOMI’s Town Center. “I’ve always liked South Miami,” says Silva, who in spite of the uncertain future of Sunset Place remains bullish on the area’s future. “It’s definitely affected us, like so many other businesses,” he says. “We don’t get the walk-in traffic we used to but fortunately our regular customers keep us very busy.”
Operating restaurants in a pandemic has also been a challenge, but Silva is happy to report that all three of his locations have bounced back in recent months. “We’re doing even better now than we were before,” he says. As for the future, Silva plans to relocate his Sunny Isles spot to Aventura sometime next year, and he’s keeping an eye out for possible future locations for Old Lisbon. “I go where the Brazilians go,” he says. “They love our culture and our cuisine.”