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Silver Ring Café, established in Ybor in 1947, returns to Tampa

The Cuban sandwich shop is located in the food court of Westshore Plaza.
 
Nelson Valdes, owner of Silver Ring Café in the food court of Westshore Plaza in Tampa.
Nelson Valdes, owner of Silver Ring Café in the food court of Westshore Plaza in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Feb. 27|Updated March 2

TAMPA — Established in Ybor City, Silver Ring Café has been slinging Cuban sandwiches and Latin cuisine to Tampa Bay patrons for 77 years but, until last week, had not had a presence in Tampa since 2008.

“It was time to bring it back,” said Nelson Valdes, 64.

Valdes opened a Silver Ring Café inside Westshore Plaza’s food court, doing so with Tim Booth, whose family has owned the rights to the name since 1985.

Booth’s niece operates one in Riverview, but he has been retired from Silver Ring Café operations since closing a Wesley Chapel spot in 2012 to care for his sick mother.

“He pestered me until I agreed to this,” said Booth, 65, with a laugh. “We’ve been friends since we were 13 … I couldn’t say no. But we’re having fun.”

Nelson Valdes, owner of Silver Ring Café, checks on food in the kitchen in the food court of Westshore Plaza.
Nelson Valdes, owner of Silver Ring Café, checks on food in the kitchen in the food court of Westshore Plaza. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The black bean and garbanzo bean soups and the roast pork sandwich are recipes Valdes learned in his early 20s while cooking at his grandmother’s West Tampa restaurant, El Rinconcito.

Everything else on the menu — the meatballs, the Italian sausage, the Pallomilla steak — is “authentic Silver Ring,” said Valdes, with devil crabs made daily. “Rolling devil crabs is an art, just like rolling a cigar.”

The Cuban sandwich has the same recipe and ingredients it has had since 1957. The Cuban bread still comes from Tampa’s Casino Bakery and the smoked ham, Swiss cheese, roasted pork and salami from Four Star Meat Products, which is now located in Atlanta and owned by Booth’s nephew. It used to be operated out of Tampa, owned by Booth’s father.

“The formula has not changed,” Booth said. “You’ll recognize the taste.”

Silver Ring Café was established by Angelo Cacciatore on Seventh Avenue in 1947. Ten years later, Booth’s father began providing the meat.

Nelson Valdes, owner of Silver Ring Café, works to prepare a Cuban sandwich.
Nelson Valdes, owner of Silver Ring Café, works to prepare a Cuban sandwich. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

“As soon as I was old enough to drive, I delivered to Silver Ring,” Booth said. “That was my job — to keep his small cooler filled with meat.”

Once his duty was complete, Booth and Cacciatore would talk over sodas and later beers.

“We were like family,” Booth said.

Valdes ate lunch there with his father regularly as a little kid. As a teen, he was Booth’s delivery partner with Four Star Meat Products.

When Cacciatore was ready to retire, he trained and turned over the operation to Booth.

The Silver Ring Café in the food court of Westshore Plaza.
The Silver Ring Café in the food court of Westshore Plaza. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

In 1987, Booth franchised Silver Ring throughout Tampa Bay — Lakeland, Riverview, Bartow and Land O’ Lakes.

He moved the original Silver Ring Café from Ybor to downtown Tampa in 1996. He then returned it to the Latin District in 2006 for a two-year stint before moving his Silver Ring Café to Wesley Chapel.

Eventually, the niece’s Riverview locale became the last one standing.

Then, Valdes asked his longtime pal to bring it back.

Customers have so far been happy to see a piece of Ybor inside the South Tampa mall.

“They walk up with a happy glare in their eyes,” Valdes said. “They look at our sign and remember when they’re dad took them to Ybor for a Cuban sandwich. There’s something nostalgic about the Silver Ring.”