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Dec 5, 2006 11:15 PM

Authentic Cuban Sandwich

I read the article in the St. Pete Times on the best Cuban sandwich by Andy Huse.
Using his criteria, do you think an authentic Cuban sandwich can be found in St. Pete or Tampa and if so where?

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  1. Without reading the whole article, here is Andy's criteria for an authentic Cuban sandwich:

    "authentic Cubans, that is, sandwiches performed on elongated Cuban bread dressed with mustard, sour pickles, Swiss cheese, mojo pork, sweet ham and Genoa salami, and then mashed in an electric press that melted the salami fat over other ingredients."

    1 Reply
    1. re: patken

      I think that Genoa salami is only authentic for the Tampa Cuban Sandwiches. I like my abuela's cuban sandwiches the best, needless to say we don't really have any good cuban eateries in Oregon.
      The perfect ingredients for what I believe to be a cuban sandwich:
      Cuban or French bread, butter,sliced ham, lechón asado,Swiss cheese, dill pickles, mustard is optional

    2. I'm not familiar with Tampa, I'm afraid, but I agree that the Genoa salami adds a whole new level to Cuban sandwiches, and hardly anyone in Miami or Orlando ever adds it. Also, probably one out of every two places actually presses the sandwich, and that can make all the difference!

      1. Castellano & Pizzo makes the best. They roast their own pork, which I usually buy and make my own sandwiches at home in my panini maker. It seems a bit unusual to go to homosassa for a cuban and fortunately for me i can just drive down the street to C&P for theirs. but that's what chowhounds do. I don't know anybody else who roasts their pork for their cubans but maybe West Tampa does. Where's Andy? Surely he knows. Andy???

        1. Having been one of the judges back in the days when the Friday Extra had annual contests, and eaten more Cubans than I can possibly remember, I agree with Andy in his article that is's increasingly harder to find an authentic Cuban sandwich these days. But there are places that make a sandwich to my liking and, like Tandoori Girl, I like the one that Castellano and Pizzo makes. I occasionally leave south Tampa and go north to La Ideal on Tampa Bay Blvd - the sandwich is good and the atmosphere is worth the price of admission - the conversation and smell of cigars reminds me of my early years in Ybor City. Roberto's Cafe on south MacDill puts out a decent Puerto Rican version and when I'm on north Florida Avenue I occasionally fall in to The Cuban Sandwich Shop. It think all of these places roast their own pork, but I believe Roberto's and the CSS use hard salami rather than Genoa. Keep in mind that most places will make the sandwiches with the ingredients you specify - more or less. I'm also waiting to hear from Andy ('ya gotta respect the opinion of a guy who'll drive all the way to Homasassa for a sandwich!!!).

          1. I second the C&P recommendation and add that they also bake their own sweet ham and use quality swiss cheese and fresh bread delivered daily by La Segunda Central Bakery. The Floridian in Treasure Island also makes a good cuban, believe it or not (Tampa style, with salami and with La Segunda bread, not Miami style sans salami with bread like the kind you get at the Florida Bakery on Columbus Drive in West Tampa). Also, I would politely take issue with Andy's recollection of the Silver Ring. The original store on 7th Avenue in Ybor City is the only one I recall that baked their cubans. If you wanted them hot they stuck them in an old white oven that looked like it had been there for decades. No press. Besides, most people in Ybor City were either poor or close to it back when cubans were born in Tampa and I would wager few had a press; most cubans were served cold. Still, I prefer them pressed. In my first months in Tampa 26 years ago a Cuban guy told me if you want the real thing you gotta get it pressed; try Blanco's near MacFarlane in West Tampa. It was the first pressed cuban I ever had and it was terrific (Blanco's is still around, on Cypress, but under new owners). The notion that Tampa's version of the cuban is "authentic'' is a bit overblown. Let's face it, the real stuff came from Cuba, so let's hear from some native Cubans about what they had there. From what I've been told, Cuba had two kinds of bread - the kind made by La Segunda (crustier, more like french) and the kind made by the Florida Bakery (softer crust, like the kind you'll find in Miami). Also, an old friend who grew up in Ybor City swears they were made with turkey, not ham. And Cubans from Miami insist that salami does not belong on a cuban, but as Andy points out that's probably the Italian influence in Tampa. Anyway, back to the subject at hand: Wright's Gourmet on Dale Mabry at Watrous makes a great cuban, but a little pricy; West Tampa Sandwich Shop and La Ideal also are good, but I think a little skimpy and they use boiled ham, I believe. I'm told one of the best cubans in town is at a little place around MacDill and Interbay; the name escapes me but maybe someone else knows. Next time I'm in Homosassa I'll have to try the cuban Andy recommends, but I won't be driving out of my way with good cubans so close by.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bergerman

              I'd be curious as to how common pressing was at home. I'm sure few Tampa Cubans, poor, working-class or otherwise had standalone sandwich presses. Even so, I grew up at home with a steady supply of pressed grilled-cheese sandwiches. A kettle full of water laid on top of the sandwich did a good job of it, as would a simple flat iron.

              1. re: Bergerman

                Bergerman, the place you're referring to on MacDill is the one I mentioned in my post. It's Roberto's and it's midway between Gandy and Interbay on Macdill. Might not be completely authentic but it's made with roasted pork and they use fresh cuban bread.