Cuban restaurants are far and few between on Long Island, but one such establishment has replaced another in Long Beach.
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Armando Lopez, a co-owner of the new restaurant who said he has no affiliation with the Cuban Crocodile, cited a geographical interest in opening his first business in Long Beach.
“When we found this place we fell in love with it here; it’s an island like Cuba,” said Lopez, a native of the Caribbean nation. “That’s why we wanted to come here. It’s the ambiance here.”
Lopez and his business partner, Noe Dominguez, renovated the split-level unit into a dimly-lit establishment with an exposed brick wall and a tin ceiling. With chef Oscar Juarez, they created a menu that features such typical Cuban dishes as Ropa Vieja ($16.95), a shredded skirt steak with onions, red and green bell peppers with plum tomatoes and garlic, as well as Lechon Asado ($14.95), a slow-roasted pork.
Since the restaurant opened a few weeks ago, Juarez said the dishes he has prepared most include Vaca Frita ($18.95), a crispy shredded skirt steak marinated in lime garlic onions and cilantro and served with green rice al caballo, and Quesadilla De Ropa Vieja ($9.95), an appetizer of flora tortilla with shredded beef and melted white cheese. Another popular appetizer is Mariquitas ($7.95), thinly sliced green plantain chips served with orange garlic mojo.
“I make everything here, fresh in house,” Juarez said of the menu that is filled out by various salad, sandwich, soup and dessert options.
The drinks menu highlights Mojitos, a rum-based libation mixed with lime club soda and flavors that include Guanabana, coco and pina, served by the glass ($8.50) or pitcher ($35). Drinks are typically served with fresh lime juice and tropical fruits.
Corazon de Cuba (translation: Heart of Cuba) decor also features a 17-foot bar and various seating options, from a lounge to high tables with two chairs to traditional tables with four seats.
A three-man band provides musical entertainment, mostly salsa tunes, each Friday and Saturday evening.
“I want to create a Caribbean atmosphere, with music and food and drink,” Dominguez said. “I want make everyone feel at home. We wish that they have the best experience of their lives.”
Both owners live in Corona, Queens. Dominguez came to the Unites States 15 years ago from Cancun; Lopez arrived 11 years ago from Cuba. Lopez started working as a dishwasher and, later, a delivery man at Manhattan restaurants. After working in management in recent years, he’s now ready for the new challenge of ownership.
“I thought it was time to move forward and take a chance and do something new,” he said.