Let’s get back to Cuban pork for a minute. No discussion of Cuban food would be complete without mention of one of the world’s great sandwiches — the Cuban sandwich.
On my last trip to the Rumba Cafe, I got a Cuban sandwich instead of my usual lechon asado plate. I was by myself, having dropped off guests at the airport up in Fort Myers. (Nancy had grabbed at an opportunity to play Mah Jong at the Marco Island synagogue on the only date available during our stay.) I first became acquainted with Cuban sandwiches — with Cuban pork, really — at Antonio’s, a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant/carry out near the Justice Department main building. Back then, I worked as a paralegal at Justice while going to law school at night, and becoming a father. (Con Law or Lamaze? Lamaze.) I got Cuban sandwiches about as often as I could afford. (The sandwiches were pretty cheap, but times were lean back then, even if I was not.) The pork was incredibly fragrant. Antonio kept the pork in a broth permeated with garlic, sour orange, herbs, and some more garlic. If I took one back to the office to eat, it would perfume the whole corridor — just one of the ways I tried to make the world a better place.
Cuban sandwiches usually consist of a generous portion of pork, a slice of ham, a slice of Swiss cheese, ball park mustard, perhaps mayonnaise, and a dill pickle, all on the relatively light and crusty Cuban bread. Once assembled, the sandwich is pressed on a grill, panini-like. There are, of course, many variations. Antonio’s used mortadella rather than ham. The key ingredient is the pork. At Antonio’s, it made for a religious experience. Usually, however, the pork is ordinary roast pork, and the sandwich is just okay, or worse.
Not so at the Rumba Cafe in Naples. I have waxed poetic about the Rumba Cafe pork. It makes their Cuban sandwich.
Just look at that. The sandwich a work of art. The pork is perfect. Can’t you just taste it? Every element of the sandwich is just as it should be, including a little extra ham and cheese top and bottom for balance. I’m getting hungry just looking at it, overcome by the remembrance of sandwiches past. Here I am, stuck in DC on the sort of grey March day that puts November in the soul, unable to get to Florida until, well, Friday. Sigh.