Sampa bringing Brazilian cuisine to Branciforte and Water

Sampa's Brazilian snacks at Woodhouse Blending and Brewing.
(Via Sampa Brazilian Food)

After gaining a foothold in Santa Cruz at Woodhouse Blending and Brewing, the São Paulo natives behind Sampa Brazilian Food are taking over the corner spot that previously housed Robbie’s Pizza & Subs (and Joe’s Pizza & Subs before that) and aiming to expand their offerings even further.

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It has built up a following selling pao de queijo, coxinha and other Brazilian specialties inside Woodhouse Blending and Brewing’s taproom. Now, Sampa Brazilian Food is preparing to open a new, standalone location in the spot recently vacated by Robbie’s Pizza & Subs (and which was Joe’s Pizza & Subs before that) at the intersection of Water Street and North Branciforte Avenue in Santa Cruz.

Ricardo Malia and his siblings, Natasha Reber and Fernando Neto, had all worked in the restaurant industry for many years before they started their spot inside Woodhouse just a few months after the taproom opened in late 2020. They plan to keep that kitchen going even as they expand to their new digs. The bigger space will allow them to expand their offerings — more than they can do at Woodhouse, said Malia.

As a full-service restaurant, they’ll be adding dishes like feijoada, a traditional black bean and pork stew, and picanha, a popular cut of steak found at churrascarias (Brazilian steakhouses). It’s typically skewered, grilled and sliced. Also on the menu will be pastels, which Malia describes as being kind of like a deep-fried empanada. They’ll also be doing their own Brazilian spin on pizzas, he said.

“These are dishes not seen in Santa Cruz,” said Malia.

Sampa Kitchen's Brazilian snacks at Woodhouse Blending and Brewing.
(Via Sampa Brazilian Food)

The Malias grew up in São Paulo and the name “Sampa’’ reflects their origins — it’s basically a nickname for the city, he explained. His sister moved to Santa Cruz more than 20 years ago, later followed by him and his brother.

The trio were looking to expand and originally set their sights on a location in Capitola before finding the former Robbie’s. The new spot will be able to serve beer and wine, and they hope to have live music. They’ll need some time to rebuild and transform the space to make it their own, but Malia anticipates they’ll be opening later this spring.

“We’re very excited because the kitchen space is huge,” he said. “We’re excited to expand and bring a little bit of São Paulo culture to Santa Cruz.”