Ponto Chic, the cafeteria that invented the bauru, turns 100 years old

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He was born before important São Paulo symbols. The Martinelli building (1929), the Municipal Market (1933), the Ibirapuera Park (1954) and the Sé Cathedral (1954) were still far from being born and marking the city.

Right on the Paissandu square, in the center of the capital, Ponto Chic opened its doors a hundred years ago — on March 24, 1922, thickening the broth of the city’s bohemian and cultural circuit and bringing together artists from the Modern Art Week, which took place that year. , but also the anti-modernist Monteiro Lobato, football players, journalists and students from the Largo São Francisco Law School.

Under the command of Italian Odílio Cecchin, the house had no name on the facade. But because of the decor, with French tiles and a marble counter, it was called a chic place. “The nickname was Oswald de Andrade, until the space was named Ponto Chic”, says Rodrigo Alves, current owner.

“A lot of things happened in Paissandu and in the bar. There were meetings with opinion makers and political leaders. In the 1932 Revolution, they even hid their weapons inside the bar’s refrigerator”, says Alves.
Even with all the tradition, the address became famous even years later, because of a mixture of bread, roast beef, tomato and cheese. It was there and with these ingredients that the traditional bauru snack was born.

The sandwich was created in 1937, when law student Casimiro Pinto Neto asked the chef to fill a crumbless French bread with the ingredients. When an acquaintance of the boy, who was born in the city of Bauru, in the interior of São Paulo, arrived at the bar and took a bite of his snack, he immediately shouted to the waiter: “Would you bring one of those from Bauru?”.

The recipe’s fame soon spread and the name “do Bauru” ended up on the menu — the ingredients remained unchanged until 1950, when the pickled cucumber was included, a version served until today.

In 1977, when the center was already in decline, Odílio Cecchin had a legal dispute with the owner of the property. “He decided to close the cafeteria, and the news spread. That’s when my grandfather and father, José Carlos Alves de Souza, made a proposal”, says Rodrigo Alves.

His grandfather, Antonio Alves de Souza, had been a waiter at Ponto Chic in the 1950s. Father and son were setting up a restaurant in Perdizes, called Passarela, but they changed their plans and, in 1978, took over Ponto Chic, also launching a new point, in the square Padre Pericles.

The address in Paissandu was reopened only in 1981, maintaining the original architecture. “What changed was the pool hall in the back, which became a parking lot”, says Alves.

But the spirit of the bar remained the same. “It was common for football players to close their contracts there and circus owners to decide on tours. The duo Milionário and José Rico, for example, appeared at Ponto Chic, which was also frequented by Chitãozinho and Xororó. prepare the protests for the Diretas-Já”, says Alves.

Now, decades later, the house has made headlines for engaging in another type of protest — and controversy — in the pandemic. Ponto Chic refused to close its doors when Covid-19 infections were out of control and the city hall and the government of São Paulo determined the non-operation of services.​

“The intention was to open a dialogue with the government. Without help to keep jobs, the sector was paying a very high price”, recalls Alves, who decided to open two units of the cafeteria on the last weekend of January 2021, failing to comply the protocols.

In the same week, the state government relaxed the bans, and the establishment suffered no reprisals. But a month later, Ponto Chic saw José Carlos Alves de Souza, Rodrigo’s father, die after complications from Covid-19.

Before the pandemic, the cafeteria sold about 140,000 baurus a year. Last year, there were about 110,000, which represents almost 35% of orders among all menu items. “It’s the most famous sandwich in Brazil. And Ponto Chic is a 100-year-old young man. We have the energy to innovate, but without losing hospitality and tradition.”

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