Like America itself, Tampa is a community built by immigrants whose diverse cultures blended to become one. Cubans, Latin Americans and Italians each created communities here early on, imbuing the young city with a multitude of ﬂavors. TAMPA Magazine looks at three restaurants and cuisines keeping the tastes of the old world as fresh as ever by serving up the past on a plate.
“El Puerto fuses Argentinian and Peruvian food, with authentic Latin-American ﬂavor,” says owner and head chef Nelson Umana, translated through Nicole Alicea. Since arriving from his native Argentina in 2003 to open El Puerto, Umana has brought a blend from all across South America, fully encapsulated in the parrillada Argentina.
“It’s an Argentinian mixed grill of different meats: grilled chicken breast, pork chops, ribs, morcilla, Argentine sausage and sweet bread — which is the grilled thymus gland from the cow — with skirt steak and an onion on top,” Umana says. “Since it’s a lot of food, we serve it to you on a metal mini-grill with hot coals inside to keep the food warm while you eat.”
Parrillada Argentina Argentinean sausage, short rib, skirt steak, chicken breast, pork chop, sweet bread, and morcilla topped with grilled vegetables and served with four sides
El Puerto • 1623 E. 5th Ave. • elpuertoybor.com
“I was always a big believer in making everything to order using fresh, domestic products,” says Benedetto’s owner and head chef Ben Pumo. “We can trace which boat caught that ﬁsh and which diver caught that ﬁsh because it comes in directly through the Port of Tampa. I haven’t bought a frozen shrimp in 18 years.”
Seafood played an inﬂuential role in Pumo’s Miami upbringing, and it is a major part of Benedetto’s menu, which blends Sicilian cuisine — “sautéed the right way, from the pan up,” Pumo says — with ingredients directly from Florida. The Grouper Bianc incorporates produce from Pumo’s Land O’Lakes farm with fresh catches from the Gulf of Mexico, bridging the gap between Florida and Sicily.
Grouper Bianc Grouper, scallops, pink shrimp, jumbo lump crab meat in a cream and Romano cheese sauce
Benedetto’s Ristorante • 21529 Village Lakes Shopping Center Drive • italianrestauranttampa.com
“I grew up here in Tampa loving the food,” says owner and proprietor Ken Johnson. “The ingredients in Cuban food create the best spices and ﬂavors.” Offering café con leche break-fasts all day, chicken & waffles and more, Reuben’s has cooked fresh-to-order in Tampa for over 30 years. The “Around Cuba” is the perfect sampler of new and old Cuba: roast pork, picadillo and ropa vieja, with sides of beans, rice, yucca, plantains and bread from Tampa’s own Casino bakery.
“We make our own in-house chimichurri with fresh ground garlic, cilantro, crushed red peppers, olive oil, which we’re getting ready to bottle and offer to customers,” Johnson says. “Put it on any dish and add ﬂavor to it.”
Around Cuba A sample of roast pork, picadillo, ropa vieja, with sides of beans, rice, yucca, plantains and Cuban bread
Ruben’s Cuban Café 4941 E. Busch Blvd. rubenscubancafe.com