Tastes of Brazil & Jamaica Enliven 9th Square

Allan Appel PhotoThe undulating palms and famous wavy walkway of Copacabana Beach along with caipirinhas and feijoada will soon perk up a reviving block in the Ninth Square.

In one of two new planned businesses, first-time restaurateur Felipe Franco is calling his place Palmeira. It means “palm tree” in Portuguese. The new eatery is on Orange Street between Chapel and Crown and supplants Reds (and before it Fosters).  Franco said he hopes his colorful new place, scheduled to open in mid-April, will be successful as New Haven’s first Brazilian restaurant

“My interest is to show Americans Brazilian food and culture,” said Franco (who did not want to be photographed).

A native of Sao Paulo and after that Boston, Franco left his job as a physical therapist at Yale-New Haven Hospital to create Palmeira. A meal will be in the $20 range, cheap enough to be affordable but expensive enough so that people will feel they’re getting something different and special, he said.

That’s going to include plenty of caipirinhas, the classic Brazilian powerhouse cocktail of lime juice, sugar, ice, and cachaca, or Brazilian rum. He’ll begin serving dinner only and doing take-out and eventually will expand to employ six to eight people, he estimated.

Palmeira will join Neville Wisdom Fashion Design Studio, catty-corner across Orange Street and adjacent to The Grove, which opened for business on March 9. The shop sells custom-designed dresses, some with bold Jamaican accents and others like this dress, with a prim 1950s collar but unconventional cut.

Like Franco, Neville Wisdom left Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he worked as a surgical technician. After three years on Whalley Avenue in Westville Village, Wisdom relocated his shop into expanded spaces at 63 Orange. In the partition-less store with exposed brick walls, he has space to deploy his eight sewing machines on which he custom designs dresses—and will custom fit them for you—in a style that he describes as “preppy meets ragamuffin.”

“Ragamuffin in Jamaican culture means funky, self-created. That reflects my personality,” he said. Wisdom imports fabrics, much of it from his native Jamaica, where he was in the dress design business for seven years before coming to New Haven. 

“Jamaicans love orange because it’s bold colors. We also love exquisite fabric that breathes because of the [humid] climate.” Wisdom said his price points range from approximately $49 to $125 to $275, which he called reasonable considering that his collections are limited often to a half dozen of the same design and the type of fabric.

His most expensive creation thus far is a 100 percent silk gown with a big “tail.” Price: $750.

“Not tail, train,” offered Wisdom’s friend Ana Blakaj, a Yale medical student and PhD candidate in microbiology. She said of Wisdom’s style: “He’s got a little madman vibe.”

Thus far business has been “awesome,” said Wisdom as, right on cue, new customer Sara Niesobecki, who lives and works downtown, popped in and declared, “When did this place appear!”

Wisdom “captures the passion of the area,” said Frank D’Ostilio, the broker who negotiated the lease for both Wisdom and Franco. D’Ostilio, who recently formed a real estate brokerage partnership with downtown realtor John Wareck, said business people like Franco and Wisdom are optimistic about the Ninth Square.

The high occupancy rate at

360 State Street and the opening of the Elm City Market have “brought a whole new level of vibrancy to these blocks,”  he said.

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posted by: BenBerkowitz on March 31, 2012  8:40am

Woot Woot 9th Square!

posted by: HenryCT on April 1, 2012  12:11pm

Congratulations, Neville!