Leaving 20% tips because they really deserve it.

Cincinnati Bites
Basil Noodles from Ruthai's Thai Kitchen

Posted Monday, September 7, 2015

It was all I could do to keep my jaw from dropping open as I overheard grumbling from a table of lawyers at Cuban Pete's, the latest shop to offer the classic Cuban sandwich of ham, pork, pickles, mustard and Swiss pressed between two slices of Cuban bread.

"His sandwich looks bigger than mine," one well-dressed lawyer huffed after the cashier had stopped by their table to ask how everyone liked the food. The friendly worker patiently explained that the pressed nature of the sandwich makes its size misleading, but he assured him it was the same amount of ingredients.

It irked me. Here were these lawyers, who obviously made two or three times an average person's salary, complaining about the size of a sandwich whose roots date back to harsher days in Havana, where it was conceived and prepared for decidedly poorer factory workers and, later, for Cuban expats who'd moved to Southern Florida to escape Fidel Castro's oppression. What cheek!

Make no mistake: Cuban Pete's sandwiches are big. If you can eat a whole one, which will cost you $7.95, then congratulations, fatty. Customers have a choice of a classic Cuban sandwich or a half dozen variants (including a Cincinnati-inspired version with Goetta), as well as several other sandwiches, salads, tacos and sides.

The restaurant is named for Pedro "Cuban Pete" Fonticiella, a Cuban baseball player who'd received his nickname from Americans playing winter baseball in Cuba during the major league off-season. Known more for his cooking skills than his baseball prowess, Pedro passed down his recipes to his son, Nelson, who in turn started the restaurant with Nelson Jr. and a third partner, Yvonne Henke.

El Cubano sandwich with side of plantains "El Cubano" sandwich with side of plantains

On my first visit, I went for the classic "El Cuban." The menu describes it as imported ham with slow roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and mayo. Several side items looked intriguing, like the sweet plantains or the "croquetas," tiny fried missiles of minced ham and spices. I chose the sweet plantains with a fountain drink to accompany my sandwich ($9 altogether).

The basket soon arrived with the sandwich served atop a bed of kettle corn. It was an impressive-looking Cuban, reminding me of those served at Paula's Cafe (Paula lived in Miami) and the various Cuban-themed restaurants that have come and gone over the years. The crispy pressed bread added an appropriate crunch to the sandwich and the plantains offered a satisfyingly sweet finish.

Cincy Cuban sandwich with side of croquetas Cincy Cuban sandwich with side of croquetas

On a subsequent day, I tried half a Cincy Cuban, served with Goetta, ham, cheddar cheese, mustard and pickles along with a side of croquetas. The outer crispiness of the Goetta and its creamier core complimented the texture profile of the Cuban sandwich well, another interesting layer to a multi-faceted sandwich. The croquetas were heartier than anticipated, with a hefty ham filling and a substantial fried breading. A horseradish dipping sauce offered appropriate zing.

Cuban Pete's is a welcome addition to the downtown lunch scene. They also travel around town via food truck, so be sure to check their website for schedules.

Cuban Pete Sandwiches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Cuban Pete
Cuban Pete\'s

Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.5 out of 43.5 stars

Other Recent Reviews

  1. A Very 90s Lunch: Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop
    -posted Sunday, November 19, 2017
  2. No-Nonsense Italian: The Spinning Fork
    -posted Monday, October 16, 2017
  3. A Mediocre Lunch at Firehouse Grill
    -posted Sunday, October 8, 2017
  4. Southern Indian Impressions: Udupi Cafe
    -posted Saturday, September 23, 2017
  5. New Downtown Korean Restaurant: Haru
    -posted Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for writing, Heather. I definitely like their other restaurants. Lalo's pazole and fish taco are better than Mazunte's, I think. But I agree they are definitely hit-or-miss. I'm still rooting for them, though. There's talent there. :)

    posted: Mon., Nov 20th, 2017 @ 1:30 PM
  • From Heather JOhnson about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    I tried Huit & Lalo and they were both expensive and so mixed - one thing great - another thing barely mediocre. More of the same it sounds like - hits and misses for a really expensive lunch. Nope on Dope.
    posted: Sun., Nov 19th, 2017 @ 12:41 PM
  • From TJ Jackson about Udupi Cafe:
    I do not know if it is truly a match for the product you remember, but Frostop Root Beer is sold at Jungle Jims and is a personal favorite of mine.
    posted: Fri., Sep 29th, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
  • From Jones about Haru Korean Restaurant:
    As a long time reader, I found this review to be one of your loveliest and most enthusiastically vivid. I can't wait to try this place!
    posted: Tue., Aug 29th, 2017 @ 9:48 AM
  • From Jordan about Grand Central Delicatessen:
    posted: Sat., Jun 3rd, 2017 @ 12:16 PM
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
  • From Tabitha about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    This is definitely going on the list. Thanks for posting. Do they also have margaritas?
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:23 PM
  • From holly may about Urban Grill on Main:
    This is Israeli couscous, the super tiny stuff is Moroccan. I personally prefer the Israeli (also known as "pearl".)
    posted: Fri., Mar 24th, 2017 @ 4:28 AM
  • From Sommer about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    We really love having Chilango so close to us in the Kings area!!! We have gone a few times and you are right - the Chicken Tinga is the best chicken taco you can get in Cincinnati!!! Thanks for reviewing this little neighborhood gem!
    posted: Tue., Mar 21st, 2017 @ 9:12 AM
  • From Tabitha about Lalo:
    But...do they have margaritas?
    posted: Thu., Jan 12th, 2017 @ 12:32 PM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design