High winds off the Portuguese coast kept the fishermen from their boats, and so on a recent Thursday, unlike most Thursdays, there are no fresh sardines, dourada or carapau in Euro-Latino Grocery's seafood case. That's fine. Store co-owner Augusto Baptista keeps his freezer stocked with frozen sardines to satisfy the Portuguese and Brazilian communities in and around Arlington. "They move like that," says Baptista of the sardines, as he snaps his fingers.
Thursday is the best day to shop here -- and for more than just fish. A New York bakery delivers fresh Portuguese breads such as carcacas (rolls) and wedges of broa de Milho, a cornbread from northern Portugal, where market co-owner Jose Roupar is from.
Baptista left Lisbon in 1970, more than half a lifetime ago, to practice his skills as a butcher on this side of the Atlantic. Stints at Georgetown's fondly remembered French Market, Giant and Sutton Place Gourmet preceded Euro-Latino, which he and Roupar opened in Rockville 12 years ago. They moved it to Arlington in 1993. Now, Baptista, 62, leaves the meat to his Argentine butcher, whose specialty cuts of beef and handmade sausage share space with whole free-range organic rabbits, suckling pigs and chickens.
Bacalhau (salted cod fillets) as big as elephant ears are stacked in cardboard boxes. Twenty or so different kinds of dried sausages, smoked slab bacon and Brazilian salted beef crowd the fridge. And, at last count, there were 95 wines, including vinho verdes, roses and other Portuguese wines. As Baptista says, "You find almost everything here."
Euro-Latino Grocery, 2700 Pershing Dr. (at Washington Blvd.), Arlington. 703-524-6800. Open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
-- Matt McMillen
Matt McMillen last wrote for Food about Brainfood, an organization that uses food to teach life skills to high schoolers.