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Parkville Restaurant Packed For Brazil-Portugal World Cup Match, Two Days After Car Crash

Ezra Silk

June 26, 2010

The tie between Brazil and Portugal at the World Cup reflected an even split Friday at the packed Patio da Rainha restaurant in Hartford's Parkville neighborhood, heart of the region's Brazilian and Portuguese communities.

Today's dancing and party atmosphere almost didn't happen. On Wednesday night, a car driven by a woman who suffered a seizure crashed through the front wall of Patio da Rainha, leaving no serious injuries but a hole in the building that was boarded up with plywood.

Perhaps because both teams were headed for the next round anyway, the scene was festive, with fans of Portugal and Brazil dancing and playfully teasing each other in Portuguese, the language of both nations.

Bartender Cristiane Silva wore a yellow Brazil shirt with the number 10 of star player Kaka. "If you had a Portugal shirt on, I'd buy you a beer," said James Charvis, wearing a red jersey of Portugal.

The restaurant owners, Maria and Manuel Mendonca, were born in Portugal. Maria wore shirt of that nation's team. But much of the staff is Brazilian. "I'm for both. Brazilians are the biggest customers I have, I'm going to be honest," Maria Mendonca said.

The coach of the University of Hartford men's soccer team, Dan Gaspar, is the goalkeeper coach of the Portugal team and a regular customer.

The scene was loud and celebratory nne customer dressed in drag in a Brazilian Carnival outfit despite the 0-0 tie, the first World Cup match between the teams since 1966. The TV broadcast was available in Portuguese through a satellite feed, but the crowd watched in Spanish, to hear Andres Cantor, the famed Telemundo soccer commentator.

"If we were closed, we would have lost a lot of money," Maria Mendonca said. "This is the way we survive."

Joking about the motorist who crashed through the wall, she said, "The other night she tried to make our restaurant a drive-in, poor thing."

Instead, customers worked along with contractors to clean up and prepare the restaurant for Friday's big day. Afterward, patrons from this and other establishments along Park Street poured outside. One reveler with a Brazil bandana and a Fu Manchu mustache directed traffic until a police officer stepped in.

"The environment is divided," said Almir Amorin, 47, a Brazilian native in Hartford for 26 years. "But we're all pretty friendly."

"It's like when England plays the USA," added West Hartford resident Joe Ferreira, of Portuguese descent.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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