TAMPA — Cuban bread, ham, mojo roast pork, Genoa salami, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and three dill pickle slices.
These ingredients could get the City Council's imprimatur as the "Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich," which, despite the name, evolved in and around Ybor City, not in Havana.
At the suggestion of an advisory committee studying ways of leveraging Tampa's cultural assets, the council voted Thursday to consider designating the Cuban as Tampa's "signature sandwich," perhaps with city certificates for restaurants that serve a historically faithful sandwich.
"I have been to Cuba, I have been to Miami, and neither of those places serve a good Cuban sandwich," said artist David Audet, who is not a member of the committee, but whose research into the history of the Cuban was used by the committee.
The Cuban bread — the loaf scored on top by palmetto palm fronds and stored in a paper bag — is an "absolutely essential" part of the sandwich, said Audet.
To get a sense of what did and did not go in a Cuban, he said, the group that researched its history spoke to people all over Hillsborough County, including the multigenerational families that have run iconic Tampa eateries like the Columbia Restaurant.
"This sandwich was very influential to everybody who came to Ybor City or to Tampa in the early days of our city, starting in 1886 when Ybor City was founded," he said.
Cuban sandwiches took their name from Ybor City cigar factory workers who bought them. Some people have said the ingredients symbolize Tampa's immigrant and ethnic groups: Cubans (the bread and pork), Italians (salami), Germans (mustard) and Jews (pickles). Mayonnaise is not considered historically accurate because the original sandwiches were purchased to be eaten later.
Designating a signature sandwich is just one idea the cultural assets advisory committee is looking at to better define the city's cultural personality. Others include looking at city rules and procedures to make it easier for cultural groups to host festivals.
The sandwich idea, however, is the one coming up for a City Council vote on April 19. Still, while the proposed definition of a Tampa Cuban is exact, there are places council members won't go. They said they will remain silent on the issue of cold versus hot-pressed Cubans.
That, said council sponsor Yvonne Yolie Capin, would be micro-management.
Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.