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Restaurant brings a taste of Cuba to Land O'Lakes

(ran PC edition)

When Silver Ring Restaurant moved a year ago, many of its loyal regulars followed. It has picked up some new customers, too.

Ray and Cheryl Pereira have lunch at the Silver Ring Restaurant in Land O'Lakes at least once a month. They especially enjoy the Cuban sandwiches and bean soup.

"I used to go to the Ybor City Silver Ring for Cuban sandwiches when I was very young," said Ray Pereira. "'Back then, they would hand press the ham, but you would have to be an old-timer like me to know the difference. These are excellent, but not quite as good as those."

Angelo Cacciatore opened the first Silver Ring Restaurant on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City in 1947. Now, more than 50 years later, he is enjoying retirement while his famous Cuban sandwiches sell at several area locations, including the one on north U.S. Highway 41 in Land O'Lakes.

A year ago, the restaurant moved less than a mile from a successful location it occupied for 11 years. Eckerds moved in, and Silver Ring moved south.

"The move was most successful," said Gina Clifton, manager of the restaurant. "We are constantly getting new people to come in."

The Pereiras used to lunch at the old location, so the move wasn't hard for them.

Ron McMahon, who lives in Lutz and frequented the old location, says the new place is easier for him to reach.

"They have good food, nice people, and it is affordable," he said. "I come at least once a week."

The Ybor City restaurant also moved _ to Morgan Street in downtown Tampa. Another Silver Ring is on U.S. 301 in Riverview. Clifton said there are also three in Lakeland and one in Bartow. But for longtime Tampa residents, the one in Ybor created memories that can be recaptured with a sandwich that has stayed basically the same through many years.

When Cacciatore opened his storefront in Ybor, it was unpretentious, with a long counter and a few tables and chairs. His sandwiches were prepared behind the counter assembly-style, with smoked ham, pork, salami, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and mayonnaise.

The meat came from 4-Star Meat in Drew Park _ the same place that local owner Roger Moses buys his from today.

"The Cubans are still made the same way," said Clifton. "We will press them and add lettuce and tomatoes if ordered, but basically the sandwich is the same."

The new location is bright and airy, with Tampa Bay Buccaneer paraphernalia on its walls. Green potted plants hang from the ceiling, and several booths and tables provide plenty of room for the lunch crowd.

Every Friday and Saturday night the restaurant offers dinner specials from 7 to 9 p.m. The dinner menu includes blackened prime rib, fresh seafood, shrimp pasta and a chicken specialty. It also offers a sample of the Northern Italian cuisine that Moses featured at the now-closed Mokomo's Restaurant he had opened on State Road 54 in Land O'Lakes in 1995.

Costs are reasonable, with the Cuban sandwich, the 9{-inch Silver Ring Special, for $4.49. Other sandwiches are turkey and Swiss, ham and Swiss, palomilla (Spanish steak pounded thin, breaded and deep fried) with cheese, Philly cheesesteak, Philly chicken, roast pork and cheese, and tuna salad. The most expensive is the foot-long Cuban, for $5.99. All come with pickle spear and chips.

The restaurant also serves soups, salads and dinners including black beans and rice, baked chicken, picadillo and roast pork.

The soups are made from scratch every other day and include black bean, Spanish bean and caldo gallego.

Homemade flan, apple or guava turnover and Cuban sugar cookies are offered for dessert, and there is a children's menu. The deviled crabs are homemade in West Tampa by Santos, and other appetizers include stuffed potatoes and plantains.

Takeout is available by calling (813) 949-0808.

_ Michelle Jones covers central Pasco community news. She can be reached at (813) 226-3459. Her e-mail address is jonessptimes.com.

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