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Why do they call it that? Tampa's treat: the Cuban Sandwich

6:34 AM, Mar 14, 2013   |    comments
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A festival celebrating that Tampa Bay specialty -- the Cuban sandwich -- is right around the corner. But another city has tried to take credit for inventing it.

The streets of Ybor City will shut down in two weeks to celebrate one of the area's most famous creations: the Tampa Cuban Sandwich.

But there are some out there who'll make the case the Cuban came from somewhere else.

Why do they call it the Tampa Cuban Sandwich?

Press it, slice it, eat it -- oooh that is good.

Michelle Faedo serves up something special from her food truck, Faedo's On the Go. A panel picked hers as the best traditional Cuban Sandwich in all of Florida.

"It's just, I guess, the quality that you use. The special touches that you give it," Faedo said, explaining the secret of her sandwich success.

"The ingredients of a cuban sandwich, of course, start with the Cuban bread. In that bread originally went ham and pork, both staples of the Cuban diet," said Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

"Italian salami, also added to that is a pickle and mustard. And you put that into a hot press and press it together with some Swiss cheese, and it's a delicious creation."

Kite-Powell says when Michelle Faedo hands her sandwich to a hungry worker through her food truck window, she's carrying on more than 100 years of tradition.

"People needed to eat. Cigar workers needed to have lunch," Kite-Powell said.

"So coffee shops began opening up basically almost walk-through, walk-by windows where they would serve these mixtos -- is what they were originally called -- basically a Cuban 'mixed sandwich.'"

But wait. Ask somebody from Miami who cooked up the Cuban and chances are their town will take the credit.

The debate continues over who first served this famous sandwich. But Kite-Powell points out Miami's flood of Cuban immigrants came 75 years after Tampa's.

When thousands of Cubans were flocking to Tampa in the late 1800's, Miami was barely a dot on the map. Its population? Around 300 people.

"You have the mix of the Cuban and the Italian, and even the German, with the pickle. That all kind of comes together in one form that everybody seems to enjoy," Kite-Powell said.

"It really is symbolic of that togetherness we have as a city."

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

If you want to try out some of Florida's tastiest takes on creating the perfect Cuban, clear your calendar!

The second annual Cuban Sandwich Festival takes over Ybor City on Saturday, March 30th. The free event runs from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.

It features vendors, live music, and competing Cuban-makers from across the state.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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