One good reason for going to Galeto, as if you really needed one, is the incredible one-piece, running counter diners sit at side by side and opposite other customers – something that is unique in the city. Add to this the full menu of traditional Portuguese dishes and the long hours the restaurant is open, feeding the nighthawks of Lisbon when no place else will take them in. From 7 in the morning, Galeto responds to the various culinary appetites of Lisboans: breakfast, lunch, combined snacks and dishes, hamburgers in brioche buns, or a glass of beer or wine. Not quite so well known is the dining room on the floor below, which is also worth a visit.
The current owner says he still remembers the day it opened in 1966; he was 13. His father was one of the six original partners. Having found success in gastronomy in Brazil, he wanted to repeat the experience in Portugal. The business model they imported centred around a small barbecued chicken – known as a galleto in Italian. The Italian community in Brazil made it popular in that country, and these six Portuguese partners brought it back to Europe from there.
Galeto’s immediate success reflected the general success of the Avenidas Novas district in the 1970s. Or perhaps it is the other way around; it’s hard to say. The city became more modern and new forms of designing spaces and buildings, and experiencing public spaces, were experimented with. Joaquim Bento d’Almeida and Victor Palla were the architects who conceived this space and other similar ones – Pique-Nique, Noite e Dia and Tique-Taque, for example – introducing the concept of the snack bar to Lisbon. The fashion caught on. In this particular case, there was more to it than just eating at the counter. The unusual design of the counters, like a little labyrinth, sits the customer opposite unknown customers on the other side, creating a unique atmosphere of being alone but in a group. Alone, in company.
It is interesting to reflect on to what extent this solution mirrors a city in movement, one that was becoming more productive and oriented towards values that now rule the western world – consumption and production of value, and where there is less time for meals and the act of eating/dining is reduced to the most efficient and informal mean possible. At night, on the other hand, the bohemians broke – and still break – with the logics of productive time, and at Galeto a person can spend hours enjoying a few not-so-productive but always refreshing draught beers. Or a good wine, depending on personal tastes. Another interesting point about these new eating habits is that the counter was indeed conceived as a convenient way of coming to eat alone, or as a couple, or with a friend. But, in reality, Galeto serves a lot of families, who come as a group and take a seat to eat side by side. It is encouraging that our desire for conviviality, taking time to eat in nice places, would seem to counter any ideals of efficiency and expediency that modern times propose – or impose.
Eatery, patisserie and ice-cream shop; restaurant, snack bar, patisserie; ice-cream and street café services