HAVANA'S CASA NOSTRA
SICILIAN STYLE PIZZA IN HAVANA
While Cuba may not be at the top of any one’s list of top culinary destinations, it is easy to find great seafood dishes, cooked in both the traditional Cuban style, and what can best be described as a global fusion style. What you do not usually find in Cuba is great pizza. Cuban’s began to eat large amounts of pizza during the periodo especial, the special period was the official name given to the years that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, which resulted in food shortages on the island. Products made with dough made their way into the Cuban diet, including thick crusted pizza, and they are now considered staples by the island’s youth. CubaN pizza has evolved significantly since then, but in general pizza on the island is very heavy,and bland, with a thick crust. The taste is varied, but usually not good, and prices range from 10 Cuban pesos in moneda nacional for a pie, to $8 CUC at a restaurant in the Vedado neighborhood that caters to tourists.
Casa Nostra is in Playa, which is one of the nicer neighborhoods in Havana, near the Palco convention center and hotel. Like most private restaurants in Cuba it operates out of a house. Casa Nostra seats about forty guests, and has an open floor plan with twelve tables. The staff is professional, everything is clean and well presented, and the place actually has cloth napkins, something practically unheard of in the world of Cuban paladares. I ordered a pizza Napolitano with anchovies, and my wife ordered the Don Fabio, which is topped with sausage, mushroom, smoked mozzarella, and red peppers. The dough is very thin, crispy, and cooked over wood in a brick oven. Both pies were delicious, and made with ingredients that I would never of thought possible in Havana. The anchovies tasted fresh, not canned, and the sausage was homemade, and outrageous. The drinks were cold, and the table service was excellent. The owner, Fabio, is a Sicilian who moved to Cuba from Mexico, and we agreed to meet again so that I could find out how he is cooking this amazing food in Havana. We had cannoli’s and coffee, and went on our way. Fabio also owns Il Rustico, which is in Old Havana, and his pizzas are not only the best in Havana, I would be willing to say that they are the best in Cuba!
If Fabio were cooking in New York, his pie would be among the best in the city. “Fuggedaboutit!” You’ll find Casa Nostra in the Havana suburb of Playa at 9thAvenue and 130th #13001, and the phone number is 7 208 4619.
By Frank Gonzalez