João das Cabeças, the master of lamb's heads

Each dish is not just a snack or a meal, it is a dive into the gastronomic roots of Alentejo.

Deep in the Alentejo plains, in the town of Castro Verde, there is a tavern where lamb's heads are “the most important”.

João Roldão, a man of few words, aged 75, is the keeper of the secrets behind these famous lamb's heads that make this place a gastronomic reference for everyone who passes there and who, sometimes, come from far away .

With more than 100 years of history, this establishment reveals a rich tradition, reinforced by Senhor João's passion for typical Alentejo food, but especially for lamb's heads.



As he explained in the short and dry sentences that are characteristic of him, the business was not inherited, but rather built over the 50 years he has been at home. He started as an employee and, after years of work, ended up buying the tavern.

The secret behind the famous lamb's heads is the cooking time. This process takes between two and a half to three hours, so that the meat is cooked. The tastiest parts, in the opinion of Mr. Rondão and his customers, are the eyes and cheeks.

Because the snack takes a long time to make, it's best to order it the day before.

A head of lamb, carefully roasted, costs between 5 and 6 euros, making the snack “accessible to everyone”.



Although he never did the math, João Roldão believes that, over the decades, the tavern had surrendered 21 thousand heads.

But there are more dishes, all with that special Alentejo touch, such as entrecote, feijoada, stews and, separately, suckling pigs, which must be ordered at least one day in advance.

Mr. João's son, Paulo Roldão, is a big presence in the tavern. With more than 10 years of experience alongside his father, he became not only a descendant of this business, but also a fundamental contributor to the preservation of the tavern.



In a world where trends come and go, the “João das Cabeças” tavern will always remain in the history of Alentejo.

Each dish is not just a snack or a meal, it is a dive into the gastronomic roots of Alentejo.

This is, after all, a tavern that doesn't just serve lamb's heads, but shows true tradition to anyone who passes through Castro Verde.



Text and photos by Margarida Pires, carried out as part of the 22|24 Professional Photography course at ETIC_Algarve, School of Technologies, Innovation and Creation of the Algarve.


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