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In operation studies of distribution networks, the restoration problem is solved using optimization techniques. However, in planning studies, such as reliability evaluation, the restoration problem is solved considering engineering judgment. Therefore, there is a mismatch between the restoration modeling used in the operation of the network and in the planning studies. This paper presents a method for reliability evaluation of distribution networks including optimization in the restoration process, through local search algorithm. The best restoration strategy is obtained considering network constraints (voltage drop and feeder loading) and optimizing operational objectives associated with: the number of interrupted customers and restoration times. The models and techniques proposed in this paper were applied in a large scale distribution network, in the northeast region of Brazil. The results demonstrate that the optimization models in the restoration process improve the reliability indices of the distribution networks.