Jun 24, 2009
In the early days of this blog I wrote a post dedicated to what once was the most popular pizzeria in Old Havana, located at the corner of Obispo and Aguiar. At that time, I made the comment that a luxurious restaurant with elegant glass doors had opened up there after many repairs and beautification work. It had elegant glass doors engraved with the initials R E, lamps, glassware, exceptionally white tablecloths and all the paraphernalia that makes up the pomp and trappings of elitist, exclusive and expensive places. So upscale was that place that they did not allow me –in my strident plebeianism- to take pictures of the interior and I had to be content with an image of the entrance, shut out due to the indiscretions of an impertinent native, a photograph that I published along with the text.
Readers can imagine my surprise when, during a recent stroll by the central corner where the restaurant is located, I found the most rampant decadence: the zealous doormen, the refined atmosphere and air conditioning had disappeared; all the doors were open wide, the restaurant’s menu was posted on the façade of the carefully framed main entrance, such that –and here is where you can appreciate the full scope the apotheosis of Cubanism in socialist conditions- the most visible in the setting is a coarse slate board covered in the sloppiest handwriting, advertising a tempting offer that, transcribed faithfully to the point where this blogger could, read as follows:
– Rolls and bread and Butter
– B & B (don’t ask me what this is, I don’t know for sure, but logic dictates that it should be the same item as on the first line -bread and butter, by their English initials)
– Caribbean Soup
– Caribbean (an illegible word follows) Soup
– Filet of Fish Grillé
– Grilled Filed of Fish
– Coffee and Caramel Flan
– (there is an illegible line here)
Price: CUC 6.50
I swear that when, unable to avoid a smile, I stopped to read the blackboard, a solicitous waiter (or the maître d’himself) came out and approached me in order to encourage me politely to enter and savor an offer he described as “exquisite.” Nothing at all, times are bad and, seemingly, even the most hoity-toity have started to drop their tufts. Anyway, I declined because I did not have any intention to have lunch there: I cannot allow myself costly experiments of dubious results for my digestion; I prefer to welcome my cheaper and safer home cooking. Moreover, if the seasonings there have the same degree of exquisiteness as the entrance’s blackboard… I don’t know, I cannot go in. And the truth is that very few decide to do it, judging by the few customers in the place at peak lunch time. I still think that, whether it was as the former lunchonette that occupied that space or as the pizzeria that I knew, any one of Europa’s pasts were, without a doubt, better.