Home Tour: Barrington

Revisiting the Azorean aesthetic of Chef Natalia Paiva-Neves’s backyard oasis


As owner of O Dinis, the East Providence eatery serving traditional Portuguese dishes, Natalia Paiva-Neves is a natural entertainer, and she extends that same hospitality, clearly woven into her DNA, at home in Barrington as well. This time of year, she begins the process of transitioning to outdoor living. She’s revamped her backyard into an al fresco oasis with an aesthetic inspired by her native Azores (or “Açores,” in Portuguese), an archipelago of nine islands nearly 1,000 miles off the Portuguese mainland. There, she says, outdoor living and dining is just part of the lifestyle, and one she mimics here in Rhode Island as soon as the temperatures start to rise. Once warm enough, she says the moment she leaves the restaurant, she heads home to enjoy the spoils of the season.

Last summer, Paiva-Neves was impatiently waiting to have an outdoor grill built in her backyard. She was tired of store-bought grills deteriorating year after year and sought a more permanent solution. In Portugal, outdoor grills are commonplace, even in compact spaces, as grilling is a standard way to cook traditional dishes – especially seafood. “It could be a very small space, but you all make it happen with your little grill outside and have your meals outside almost every night if you can,” she explains. “I had a vision, and couldn’t get guys to come out here and build it for me because they’re all so busy in the summertime” – so she decided to do it herself. Simply constructed with cinder blocks and a grill grate, the project has paid off in spades, with Paiva-Neves cooking on it regularly ever since.

A natural pool is the centerpiece of the outdoor space. “It creates this beautiful blue that you can’t get anywhere, and in the Azores, everything is very green and lush, so I didn’t want my backyard to look turquoise because that doesn’t work for me, because we have a lot of greenery,” says Paiva-Neves. Spruce trees, bamboo, annuals, perennials, and multiple gathering spaces extend the verdant hue emanating from the pool. She painted the wood fence a midnight blue to complement the landscape, which she says seamlessly blooms from spring to summer. “It goes through the seasons. Soon I’ll have the peonies, then hydrangeas bloom, which we have all over the yard because that’s the flower of the Azores. It’s also my wedding flower.” 

While Paiva-Neves thrives in this outdoor space, you never know when she’ll be inspired to tackle another project. She says, “Listen, every year when I travel to the Azores, I come home and my poor husband has one more thing to do because I’m filled with ideas!” She would also like to state for the record that before tinned fish and charcuterie boards were trending on menus far and wide, she was offering these starters on the regular. “I know it’s very fashionable to be Portuguese now, but we’ve been doing this for 100 years!” she laughs.


Get Rhody Style

Ideas and resources for making the most of living in the Ocean State.

Stocking Up

Paiva-Neves recently traveled to Spain where she learned how to make a “proper paella.” Arguably the best-known dish in Spanish cuisine, paella is named for the traditional cookware the dish is prepared in: a large, wide, round, shallow pan with slanting sides. Find paella pans at Stock Culinary Goods in Providence; Wickford Appliance in Cranston, Cumberland, Middletown, North Kingstown, Pawtucket, and Westerly; and similar pans at Peter Pots Pottery in West Kingston.

Fresh Picks

Paiva-Neves has a backyard garden where she keeps herbs and more at the ready. When she’s looking for seasonal inspiration, she heads to local farmers markets and farm stands, like Four Town Farm in Seekonk. “I’ll go two to three times a week, and instantly my mind will be changed because I’ll see what’s in season.” Visit FarmFreshRI.org to find a farmers market near you.

Close to Home

While much of Paiva-Neves’ cookware and serving platters come from Portugal, she enjoys visits to Portugalia Marketplace in Fall River for new pieces.



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