La Boticella, tucked away in Barrinha, is a charming place. The owner, a man who looks like he's been chosen especially for the job by a top-notch casting agency, bespectacled and friendly, speaks enough languages for a small continent and is apparently Argentinian, though he's Italianized his name for the good of the restaurant. It wouldn't do to be a mere Jorge when you're serving up helpings of delicious pasta. Giancarlo sounds better!
All our dishes were excellent, the appetizer superb, the bread hot and crusty and substantial. Someone had a ravioli with lobster that was lovely, and my own spinach and cheese ravioli was swimming in a just-right tomato sauce that made me miss Rome. Do wear long pants as the mosquitoes, always present in Barra, were out in full force. And it can be a bit of a beast to find, located on a tiny park right at the entrance to what I'm told is the start of the road to Pedra da Gávea.
Cavist (website still, still not ready)
My girl's night this week was at the Ipanema location, which, if I'm not mistaken, is what used to be known as Expand. The menu is basically the same, and the layout, so I'm assuming they've just changed the name. It's bitterly cold inside, as the restaurant is more of a wine cellar than anything else, and while they do have some scarves available, I'd recommend bringing a nice sweater to wrap up in. The menu is slim (no chicken, if I remember correctly), but the dishes are excellent (though on the pricey side) and wine can be ordered by the bottle (go pick it out from their selection) or glass (via a very cool soda-fountain sort of machine). We weren't particularly impressed, however, with the SIZE of the glasses poured by said machine. It definitely is on the skimpy side, so be prepared. And since it's machine measured, there's not much complaining to be done to the server. My guess is that a full bottle is a better value.