How to Throw a Portuguese Tapas Party
Petiscos, Portugal’s answer to tapas, might change the way you entertain—just follow the lead of Chicago’s exceptional Fat Rice restaurant.
If you can guess the meaning of the Portuguese word petiscos, with no help from the Internet and on your first try, congratulations—you are ready to throw a party with the delicious snacks that are championed by Chicago’s Fat Rice.
Co-owners Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo took a gamble that petiscos, Portugal’s working-class answer to tapas, might catch on in the Midwest. Success (critics’ accolades, long lines, award nominations) was not a given. Conlon and Lo’s petiscos fascination began, esoterically, with tiny Macau, a former Portuguese colony on the South China Sea. “We’re tracing the empire backward,” says Conlon, explaining Fat Rice’s focus on Portugal’s onetime conquests, including Goa, Malacca and Cape Verde.
With Fat Rice’s recent expansion—there’s now The Bakery at Fat Rice and The Ladies’ Room lounge, and, as of this month, a cookbook called The Adventures of Fat Rice—Conlon and Lo are doing even more to enlighten the uninitiated. At night, they transform the bakery into a petiscos counter. And sometimes, after hours, they host petiscos parties, setting out platters of food with piles of small plates and bowls, so guests can serve themselves tasting-size portions of different dishes: mini sandwiches called bifanas, filled with tender pork drizzled with red pepper broth; the Azorean soup caldo verde, combining kale, luscious bits of shredded beef and fat slices of sausage; and bowls of snails with toothpicks. All stay true to a humble, no-frills spirit.