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Brazilian steakhouse owner eyes former Don Pablo’s

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The owner of a popular Newark Brazilian steakhouse is eyeing the former Don Pablo’s near the Christiana Mall, although it’s unclear whether the steakhouse is moving from Newark. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

CHRISTIANA – The owner of a popular Brazilian steakhouse in Newark is looking to take over the former Don Pablo’s near the Christiana Mall.

A limited liability company connected to Philip Piraino, the owner of Churrascaria Saudades Brazilian Steakhouse, which opened in the Newark Shopping Center in 2015, is seeking a liquor license transfer for the vacant restaurant at 600 Center Blvd., near Costco’s and the Christiana Fashion Center. The property is owned by The Kroenke Group, a real estate investment firm based in Missouri.

What’s not clear is whether Churrascaria Saudades would leave its Newark location or open a second location if the transfer is granted, or whether Piriaino is planning on opening a new concept altogether at the former Don Pablo’s property. Piraino and The Kroenke Group did not respond to numerous requests for comment over a period of several weeks. Renovations of the interior of the property are underway.

Churrascaria Suadades has operated out of the Newark Shopping Center for several years. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

The original Churrascaria Saudades was the product of some prodding by Piraino’s then-teen son, Antonino, who convinced his father to pursue the idea after drafting a business plan for the restaurant as his senior project at Appoqunimink High School.

The restaurant presents an authentic Brazilian steakhouse, with roaming gauchos carving large slabs of grilled skewered meats tableside for diners in an all-you-can-eat experience. While Churrascaria refers to the barbecued meats, Saudades is a Brazilian expression describing a deep sense of nostalgia for something missing.

Piraino, an airline pilot from Middletown who grew up in Brazil, partnered on the original location with longtime friend, Elio V. Ferreira Jr., a Brazil native experienced in running churrascarias, according to a 2015 interview with the Newark Post. It drew upon the popularity of restaurants like Fogo de Chão, which has locations near Philadelphia.

The upscale, fine dining approach for Churrascaria Saudades helped to lead a revitalization of the Newark Shopping Center but may be better positioned at the new location to draw patrons with disposable income, especially those coming from out of state to the destination sales-tax-free mall.

The former Don Pablo’s, which closed in 2018, has been the center of seemingly endless rumors about its future in a high-traffic location.

The Tex-Mex restaurant operated there for nearly two decades but closed abruptly after its ownership struggled in the years following a 2016 Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A handful of the locations lasted for a few more years, but the last Don Pablo’s closed in New Jersey in 2019.

The site has bounced between potential futures, with a failed attempt at becoming an Iron Hill Brewery becoming public in 2019 after that Newark-based company reported that state laws on breweries ended its ability to redevelop the property.

Churrascaria Saudades has a set menu price of $51 for a full dinner experience or half that for a salad bar-only menu. Children 7 to 12 eat for half price while those 6 and under are free.

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