We’re late to the table, only recently discovering that Ella Dining Room & Bar is hosting a Whole Hog celebration of pork dishes for the month of March. It includes lunch, dinner and happy hour specials such as ale-braised pork cheeks, porchetta, crispy pork belly, and chicharrones with spiced beer nuts.
What caught our attention was the Cubano (a.k.a Cuban sandwich) on the lunch menu ($16). This being Ella, it’s a sophisticated upgrade of the blue-collar staple that originally was made in the cafes of the Cuban enclave cities of Key West and Tampa as an inexpensive yet filling lunch for Cuban workers.
For decades, Cuban sandwiches have been sold everywhere in South Florida, especially in the restaurants and kiosks in the Little Havana section of Miami, known as Calle Ocho.
A genuine Cubano is assembled from slices of marinated and slow-roasted pork loin, top-quality ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickle chips layered on Cuban bread that’s been smeared with ballpark mustard and butter or olive oil. It’s then grilled on a “plancha,“ a sort of panini press without the ridges.
Ella’s version is made with smoked pork loin, mojo (citrus marinade)-braised pork shoulder, Swiss cheese, housemade pickles and jalapeno aioli, served on a griddled hoagie roll, with a side of excellent housemade potato chips.
We dropped by Tuesday for some bites and found the sandwich delicious, with layers of flavors and textures getting together for a riotous rumba that ended only with the last bite.