The Hocca Bar first opened its doors in 1952, and serves up thousands of sandwiches, beers, and pastéis de bacalhau (pastries packed with cod) everyday. The mixed crowd of kids, families, polo wearers, old gentlemen, and nuns stand or sit on stools, consuming their sandwiches. Everyone loud, talking, numbers are shouted, people laugh; talk one-handed.
The line wrapped around the place. A man asked the line to make room for those walking by. This was crowd control at a sandwich stand.
I place my order. I wait for the numbers: 451, 452, 453, 461, 463. Where is 454? The wait hurts. Worries of being forgotten, and working out how to say, “Please feed me,” in Portuguese, finally come to fruition. The man at the grill is working with mixed meats and breads; methodically slicing and tossing; then carefully folding and dropping the meat inside the buns. This vet has done this for at least a decade, probably more. His muscle memory finally delivers 454. I'm up. I claim my prize.
This is the sandwich not featured in Anthony Bordain's epic No Reservations trip to São Paulo. Hocca Bar is the sandwich stand nearby-- the one that he didn't have time to wait for.
The Hocca Bar lives up to their slogan, "O famoso é aqui" Which means: THE FAMOUS IS HERE. "The famous" references The Mortadella Sandwich aptly named "Belíssima"; stacked four inches thick with multiple layers of cheese. Savory mortadella meat, similar to bologna with pockets of fat to capture flavor, is balanced with a dried tomato sauce preserved in olive oil and topped with oregano. This blend is then shoved into an Italian loaf and cut in half.
The sandwich has to be held with a napkin.
It kills me. This artery-clogger might have taken a few minutes of my life but I could give a careful shit. It's a miracle heart-stopper that took me straight to heaven. The balance of the sandwich is just right, where most sandwiches this packed with meat run the risk of drying out; the sauce and availability of molho do pimenta, a yellow hot sauce, complete it.
I deserve this sandwich and apparently so do the 50 or so still in line waiting for their time to come.
Pastéis de bacalhau.
I will be back next month.