Gilda, a Homey Portuguese Cafe, Opens in Fishtown on March 3rd

The new daytime spot from married couple Brian Mattera and Brian Oliveira will serve breakfast, lunch, and glorious pastéis de nata.

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Pastéis de nata and peri peri chicken at Gilda, opening in Fishtown on March 3rd / Photography by Paolo Jay Agbay

It’s not uncommon for Brian Mattera to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about pastéis de nata. “I’ve become obsessive about them,” Mattera admits when talking about the crisp cups of dough filled with yolky egg custard, which are often flavored with cinnamon. “Sometimes while Brian is falling asleep I’ll be talking to him about it, like ‘I think I’m gonna increase the cinnamon by two grams.’ It’s taken over my life.”

The traditional Portuguese treat is the focal point of the pastry menu at Gilda, a new  cafe and market from Mattera and his husband, Brian Oliveira, opening March 3rd at 300 East Girard Avenue in Fishtown.

When it comes to baking pastéis de nata, temperature is everything. They must be cooked in an oven that’s hot enough so the simple, laminated dough crisps and the tops of the tarts get lightly burnished without overcooking the filling. The pastry has taken Mattera years to master. Oliveira’s grandmother, who is Portuguese, got the final say in whether he had finally nailed the process — and she only recently offered her full approval.

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Pastéis de nata, fresh out of the oven

The cafe’s name (pronounced Jill-da) honors Mattera’s late grandmother. She was a talented cook whose Italian-leaning recipes have been passed down through the family. On a shelf overlooking Gilda’s dining room sits one of her cookbooks with recipes for cannoli and lasagna scribbled in the margins. The book on Gilda’s shelf is a subtle touch, but one of many that add up to make the restaurant feel homey, a daytime watering hole for the neighborhood.

Gilda’s space has history. In 2014, Oliveira opened Girard Bruncherie in the same space. The setup was different – old customers will remember a boldly striped ceiling and a bar, both now gone – but, in some ways, Gilda has grown out of the remains of Girard. Mattera and Oliveira met there, when Mattera was sitting at the bar. The two are now married.


Brian Oliveira (left) and Brian Mattera sit in Gilda’s space together.

“One of the first things we decided was that we needed to have a table with newspapers and magazines that people can take and read when they’re here,” Oliveira says. “Take a section, do the crossword, we had that at Girard and people would be, like, sharing sections and stuff. It was a nice thing.”

Even empty, without cooks or food or customers, Gilda is comfortable, friendly and inviting. The sun arcs through the windows, over the soft white curtains, and warms the tile floors. Portugal has become a trendy travel destination in recent years, beloved for its affordability and tinned fish. Even still, Gilda feels more like the living room of a modern Portuguese grandmother than a trendy cafe.

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Slicing the pastry dough to make pastéis de nata

After Oliveira sold Girard in 2018, the Brians launched a catering company called Happy Hour Hospitality, eventually narrowing in on the idea of highlighting Portuguese food. As Mattera perfected his pastéis de nata, the duo started popping up around the city, selling the sweet snack and other Portuguese dishes influenced by the food Oliveira had grown up eating. These events inspired the evening element of Gilda, which will eventually host pop-ups from other up-and-coming chefs and businesses.

“When we first started out, so many people allowed us to pop up in their spaces, even if it was just setting up a table or something,” says Mattera. “We wanted to be able to do that for other people, because we wouldn’t have been able to get where we are if people hadn’t opened their doors to us.”


A seating nook inside Gilda

Once open, Gilda will serve daytime options from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day but Tuesday. In addition to showcasing pastries (like pastéis de nata), breakfast will feature hefty Portuguese chorizo breakfast sandwiches, while lunch will include caldo verde, salt cod fritters, cheese, charcuterie and tinned fish plates, and a peri peri chicken with french fries and saffron rice. Gilda will also have a small market section with pantry items and prepared food available for at-home meals.

“We’re just so excited to have everyone in here,” Mattera explains. “I think that’s what will really complete the space.”