Bella Habana Restaurant 
 St. Pete Beach, Florida        Date of Visit  09/18/10

Having had a game changing Cuban sandwich the last time we were in South Florida we were looking forward to a repeat performance. Lots of places around here serve a Cuban Sammy but they just don’t come anywhere near the real thing. Usually consisting of a ham sandwich with mustard and pickles they are completely missing the unbelievable bread, the fragrant and tasty flavors of the Cuban pork, and the right combination to make it all magical. When we drove past Bella Habana and saw the “Authentic Cuban Cuisine” on the front, we knew it was on.



Lots of Beans, Not Much Flavor

On a late night journey we pulled up to hear live Cuban music being played on the patio and a number of folks enjoying the tunes and some adult beverages but we were stymied in our quest for yumminess as the kitchen had just closed. A man I’m assuming was the owner stepped out from behind his conga drums and very warmly apologized and asked us to return for a meal or stay for drinks. His ultra professional and kind style ensured we would return.

Later in the weekend we stopped back for lunch during an off hour and almost had the place to ourselves. I did not see the gentleman from the night before and his presence was missed as the staff, without much to do, took a great deal of time getting to us. When we were about to try something else we got an apology followed by attentive service for the rest of the stay. The interior is mildly lit but accented with bright and flashy colors, and is adorned with images of Cuba and cuisine. There was no way we were not getting a Cuban Sandwich to which we added black bean soup, and another sandwich that the menu stated was a must try, the Roja Vieja.

Cuban Sandwich...Eh

Delicious Roja Vieja

The Flavorful Interior

I found the soup disappointing, the menu mentioned they used real Cuban black beans, which I’m sure they do but that was all the soup seemed to consist of, exceptionally light broth and beans. No heat, no spice, no detectable salt. This may be authentic Cuban, but if it is I will take our Americanized representation. The soup was a let down and the Cuban sandwich was even more so. If some fast food joint is looking to model a mass produced, middle of the road version of a Cuban sandwich that simultaneously appeals to everyone and no one, this is a classic. The bread was awesome…the ham was…and the pork was out of proportion (hard to find) and what there was of it had little to offer. Bummed…until we tried the Rojo Vieja! Shredded flank steak cooked in sofrito and finished with a bright tomato based jus, and on the same fantastic bread, this was worth the trip alone. Stunning. We were also introduced to a new custard dessert, Crème Cantanolo. A custard which took some adjustment. It has the consistency of say jello-jigglers which took some getting used to for the crème brulee crowd it’s almost chewy. My appreciation grew for it with each passing bite as the cinnamon and clove bite of the spices began to warm up against the cold richness of the custard. All in all a pleasant trip, not for the expected but for the new surprises.

Creama Cantanolo Different but Very Good




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