The basement “tavern” in the Portuguese restaurant Alfama is the only place I know in New York where you can go on a weekly basis, Wednesdays at 8pm, to hear fado. I made a point of going on the occasion of the restaurant’s one-year anniversary at its current location. The distinctive lilting melodies, which have the unusual ability to alternate between the melancholic and the festive, were sung by Nathalie Pires, a darkly attractive Portuguese-American whose work has captivated me before, and by one of the restaurant’s owners, Miguel Jerónimo, whose straightforward renditions had great appeal.

The previous time I saw Pires was in November at the Manhattan Cameratas Tango-Fado Project. She was accompanied in equal parts by the great Daniel Binelli on the bandoneón and Pedro H. da Silva on the Portuguese guitar. That was only part of a beautiful chamber concert which included a duet of Piazzolla’s “Verano porteño” played by Binelli and the notable pianist Polly Ferman and concluded with a fado unamplified in voice or instrument that filled the vaulting Blessed Sacrament Church with a lilting, desperate sorrow.

The fado at Alfama is sung without amplification throughout. The lighting is dim and the food authentic (and therefore delicious), creating an ambiance not unlike what I experienced during my one trip to Portugal. I will be back to the fado at Alfama, and hopefully to the country of its birth as well.

Alfama has closed its doors since this review was written. For information on Nathalie Pires, visit her here. For more on Manhattan Camerata, click here.

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