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A familiar face returns to 10th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen. Rice X Beans is the new chapter for Chef Carlos Roberto Inácio — known to friends and family as Carlinhos — who is returning to the neighborhood where he gained a reputation for serving top-notch traditional Brazilian cuisine.
“Everything made sense to come back to the place where he started – it was a great opportunity to get back to the area,” said manager Fabrizio Strambeck, a longtime hospitality veteran who has joined Carlinhos to open Rice X Beans.
“People already knew our name and already knew the food and Carlinhos was already well-established in the area,” he said of the return to Hell’s Kitchen. “We were able to get a great location and get everything up and running within four months.”
Carlinhos first honed his skills by cooking with family in Minas Gerais, Brazil, where he grew up. “I used to watch my mother cooking in Minas, so I learned, in a different way, how to bring a different seasoning to my dishes,” he said. He went on to work in and develop menus for several Brazilian restaurants in New York before striking out on his own.
The first iteration of the Brazilian eatery was a 9th Avenue constant for a quarter century, expanding to include a secondary location in Woodside, Queens, before both locations were sold, with the Manhattan location renamed Nelore Grill.
The chance to bring Rice X Beans back to Hell’s Kitchen inspired Carlinhos to revisit favorites from the menu as well as mix in new concepts and combinations to the eatery’s traditional Brazilian dishes. “When he was cooking in Queens, he ran specials of things that he wanted to try out on our menu here, and many are now new additions at Rice X Beans,” Fabrizio said, adding that the secondary location in Woodside was a great place to experiment with new flavors.
One major change? “Not everything comes with rice and beans,” laughed Fabrizio. Though “Carlinhos is keeping to his roots in authentic Brazilian homemade cooking.” While the signature sides will still be available with many dishes, Carlinhos has branched out to include some unexpected combinations — like Ribeye Steak, served with a mushroom, sundried tomato and parmesan cheese risotto and port wine reduction sauce, or the Braised Short Rib served with a yuca pureé.
Another new facet? An extensive cocktail program, which Carlinhos and Fabrizio plan to house in their newly expanded bar: “We’re going to be more focused on our drink menus now that we have a bar that can seat up to 14 people,” said Fabrizio. Patrons can toast each other with cocktails like the Gabriella – a beverage similar to a Caipirinha made of muddled lime, honey, gold Cachaça (a distilled Brazilian liquor made of sugar cane that’s similar to rum) infused with cinnamon and passion fruit juice, or the Minas Mojito made of Mint Cachaça, Italicus, fresh lime, mint, simple syrup and homemade spices.
Carlinhos and Fabrizio hope customers will feel free to linger over dinner and drinks at the new space, which they’ve taken care to build out into a large renovated dining room. “This new location of ours is totally different – it’s like a brand-new restaurant,” Fabrizio added. “We’re looking forward to welcoming back our regular customers and new people who we think are going to love it – people are going to see the new venue, the menu, the drinks, experience the ambiance and going to be like, ‘Wow!’”
Putting roots back down in Hell’s Kitchen has been meaningful for the team, who hope to build a tenure for Rice X Beans on 10th Avenue.
“We’re so excited to be back,” said Fabrizio. “We have a 10-year lease with an option for another five – we’re hoping to stay here another 25 years.”