When the new Rodizio Grill® — America’s First Brazilian Steakhouse® — broke ground on May 14, I’m pretty sure I was the only member of the local media — and perhaps the only one of the nearly 100 people who waited on line for a coupon for a free meal at the new location when it is expected to open in about nine months, or sometime in early 2025 — who had already dined at the Rodizio Grill location on Fruitville Rd. in Sarasota. More on my experience at that Rodizio Grill appears below.

Rodizio Grill Founder and President, Ivan Utrera, and local owner, Charlie Haney, invited the community to join the groundbreaking celebration (next to the At Home store) on May 14. 

Established in 1995, Rodizio Grill was the first Brazilian “churrasco” steakhouse in the United States. Since then, Rodizio Grill has grown into an esteemed national franchise, with nearly 25 locations across the country. 

Local Owner Charlie Haney

The Wesley Chapel location will mark the brand’s sixth in Florida. At the groundbreaking, Haney echoed the sentiments of Utrera, who said in a news release, “I am beyond thrilled to break ground on our newest Florida location. Wesley Chapel is experiencing tremendous growth and is a coveted destination for residents and tourists alike. We are thrilled to become part of this thriving community.” 

Haney added, “I was drawn to the Wesley Chapel area for a multitude of reasons. The area is the perfect fusion of suburban serenity and urban accessibility. However, what captivated me was the community: the people are warm and welcoming, neighborly, and joyful. As Ambassadors of Brazil, we aim to welcome the community into Rodizio Grill — our home — and celebrate the ‘alegria,’ or joy, that is the Rodizio Grill experience. I believe our concept and the community will be a natural fit for one another.” 

Locally and nationally, Rodizio Grill is known for its playful Brazilian spirit, authentic menu offerings and family-friendly atmosphere. The unique concept features rotisserie-grilled meats, expertly seasoned and carved tableside by traditionally dressed Gauchos. While the meats are the main attraction, they are complemented with an award-winning gourmet salad bar, authentic hot side dishes, fresh-pressed juices, homemade Brazilian Limeades, signature (full-liquor) cocktails and a selection of exclusive, homemade Brazilian desserts. The whole experience comes at a competitive, affordable price so the whole family can celebrate together. 

Brazil-native Thiago Navarro will be the General Manager of Rodizio Grill’s newest location, bringing with him close to a decade of experience with the brand. 

“Having grown up in Brazil, many of my cherished childhood memories took place at our local churrascaria – whether it was celebrating a special occasion or simply spending quality time with my loved ones,” said Navarro. “Rodizio Grill is truly the embodiment of these memories – the traditional fare, the experience with the Gauchos and the fun atmosphere. I am thrilled to represent Brazil here in Wesley Chapel and am excited to share my passion for our culture and our signature Rodizio Grill experience with the community.” 

Our Rodizio Grill will be located at 2082 Grand Cypress Drive in Lutz. The 9,250-square foot restaurant — with room for about 300 diners — will feature several private and semi-private event spaces. The restaurant will create upwards of sixty jobs. To learn more, visit Rodizio.com

About My First-Visit Experience

Knowing that the groundbreaking was coming up, I decided to bring my mom to the Rodizio Grill location in Sarasota on Mother’s Day. There was a $10-per-person upcharge for the event, but there also were additional food items included for that higher price: a beef tenderloin carving station, plus two items I couldn’t sample because of my accursed shellfish allergy — large shrimp in garlic sauce (which my mom enjoyed) and lobster bisque. 

We also sampled a number of items from the clearly fresh, 30-item salad bar, as well as a few of the hot side dishes, including the seasoned white rice and feijoada (black bean stew), plus pasta Alfredo, a savory shredded roast pork dish that I somehow didn’t take pictures of and the creamy Estrogonofe de Franco (or chicken stroganoff), which was probably my favorite of the hot sides. Trying to save room for the “main event,” we didn’t sample the couve (sautéed collared greens and bacon), the creamy whipped potatoes or the Pao de Queijo (homemade Brazilian cheese bread), but they all looked good — and different from anything you’ll find anywhere in our area.

Speaking of the main event, my mom and I agreed that the Maminha (tri-tip steak) was our favorite of the steak options sliced at our table, although we also enjoyed the Picanha (top sirloin) and Bife con Also (steak basted with traditional house garlic rub). My personal favorite of all of the tableside options was the Presunto (ham grilled and basted in a raw sugar glaze), although I did also enjoy the Pernil (roast pork) served with fresh lime wedges). 

We definitely didn’t pace ourselves well enough, so we only sampled two chicken dishes — the Coraçao de Franco (chicken hearts) Temperado and the Frangro Agri-Doce (white meat chicken with a sweet and spicy sauce, like a slightly spicier version of Chinese orange chicken. 

We filled up pretty quickly on all of these options — I hope, the next time I visit, I will do a better job of pacing myself — so we did not try the two different kinds of sausages available, nor did we see any lamb or fresh fish options before we were ready for dessert.

Rodizio Grill offers a nice selection of five desserts, of which we sampled the Romeo e Julieta-style cheesecake and the Torta Brigadeiro (a rich chocolate mousse torte served with sliced bananas and fresh whipped cream). Please note, because we didn’t, that the desserts cost extra — they are not included with your fixed-price meal.

Overall, my mom and I enjoyed our first experience at Rodizio Grill and I am definitely looking forward to the opening of the Wesley Chapel/Lutz location. 

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