Fish, Salt, Fire

Fish, salt, and fire: that’s all Eduardo needs.

The seafood at Snack-Bar Pintarola is refreshingly simple, though the variety is impressive. Swordfish, cod, tuna, grouper, and a fish (I’ve never heard of) called "espadarte" are just the start. A variety of shellfish, squid, and lobster round out the offerings.

They serve a few other staples as well—grilled lamb or beef, and cured hams of all sorts. And don't forget a glass (or bottle) of wine from a nearby vineyard to pair with your meal. But above all, Pintarola is the place for perfectly cooked, caught-that-same-morning seafood.

Eduardo’s face turns from furrowed brow to satisfied grin and back again as he tends the grill. His seasoned hands gut and slice the fish, sprinkling just the right amount of salt while he keeps the coals hot. His partner, Gertrudis, just sticks with a glowing smile when she takes your order.

From the way they talked to each other and posed for this photo, I couldn't quite tell if they were brother and sister, husband and wife, or lifelong friends. I wish I had asked. But whatever the nature of their relationship, one thing is clear: they've been doing this for a long time.

Pintarola in a church-side plaza in Sesimbra, a block away from the central park. Sesimbra is a small fishing and beach town off the coast of the Atlantic, less than an hour’s drive from Lisbon. Though close to the capital, the place exudes an unmistakably small-town air, mixed with the salty scent of the sea. Life here is slow, familiar.

The customers come and go. Some of them are tourists, but many are not. Neighbors and friends stop to chat, or they order food to-go for their families. Again: it looks like Eduardo and Gertrudis have been doing this for years. Their enthusiasm, however, says they're just getting started. 

When you visit Lisbon, I highly recommend swinging by Sesimbra if you happen to venture out to the countryside south of the city. Whether you stop at Pintarola, or any of the other local eateries in town, I don't think you'll regret it.

Safe travels.

All images captured on a Canon 6D, fitted with a Canon EF-50mm f1.4.