Ana Santos-Vitelo’s Brazilian Ameican success story defines, inspires and celebrates the American Dream.
By Sean Chaffin
Ana Santos-Vitelo has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Born in Rio de Janeiro, she worked as a corporate secretary early in her career – but always wanted more. After moving to the U.S., she worked in various restaurants and some of Chicago’s top Brazilian steakhouses.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, she worked as a corporate secretary early in her career – but always wanted more. After moving to the U.S., she worked in various restaurants and some of Chicago’s top Brazilian steakhouses.
Her jobs ran the gamut from administrative assistant to hostess to server, and that’s when she found her passion.
“I always had an inner voice telling me to persevere toward my goals even when things were going tough,” she says.
“I quickly fell in love with the liveliness of the hospitality business. I decided to seek opportunities and follow my passion in the restaurant business.”
Life, a la carte
So, Ana Santos-Vitelo learned. She saved. Her English improved. She battled through a recession and was also a mom.
It took a decade, but that hard work and sacrifice paid off in 2012 when Brazil Express Churrasco Grill opened for business in the northwestern Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, Illinois.
The restaurant offers quality Brazilian cuisine with at an affordable price.
“I was coming from an undeveloped country where the everyday struggles made me a strong and more resourceful person,” Ana says.
“In Brazil, I didn’t have many options of creating a fulfilling career of my own. I was expected to be married and raise a family like the other residents around me. However, I had a dream of having my own family but having a career as well.”
Keeping the menu affordable is something she takes pride in, and hopes it helps share the experience of Brazilian cuisine and culture.
Brazil Express Grill
Brazil Express offers diners a traditional Brazilian churrascaria experience: full service, unlimited meats carved at the table and served with homemade side dishes, gourmet salads, desserts, wine, and liquor.
“Business has been going great and people rave about the quality of our food and service,” she says.
“Brazilian food is delicious and diverse. I love the fact that we can share our food and a little bit of our culture, not only with Brazilians like us, but with people from all backgrounds.”
And like many Brazilians, Ana Santos-Vitelo is a music fan. She enjoys Marisa Monte, Gilberto, Gil and Caetano Veloso as well as American singers like Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Shawn Mendes, and Bruno Mars.
Tips are part of Ana Santos-Vitelo’s plan
For those considering starting a business, Ana says it’s important to find a real passion and the main reason behind your business idea.
“Once you have that answer,” she says, “you can plan and save to make your dream or idea a reality.”
For Ana, that passion for success and pride in her country’s food have taken her a long way from Rio but also helps her spread Brazilian culture.
“I am proud that by owning a business I am able to offer jobs, contribute to our community, and help our economy grow,” she says.
“Most of all, I am proud of my traditions and my Latino roots. I believe that different cultures and traditions are what make this world so rich and interesting.”
You’ll find a welcoming smile from Ana Santos-Vitelo when you pay a visit to Brazil Express Grill in Schaumburg for dinner, lunch (Fridays only) and Sundays, too.