At one time, the Ybor City section of Tampa out-produced Havana as the cigar-rolling capital. Tampa Bay, which includes St. Petersburg, remains famous for two other Cuban staples: Strong coffee and satisfying sandwiches of ham, pork and Swiss cheese.
The Cuban (or cubano) is the official sandwich of Tampa, and Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg president and general manager Tim Ramsberger (a lifelong St. Pete resident) weighs in on restaurants where spectators for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend can find the best:
Floridian – Treasure Island
Colombia – Tampa/St. Pete Pier
Habana Café – Gulfport
Pipos – St. Pete
Bodega – St. Pete
La Teresita – Tampa
“To me, the sandwich must be evenly stacked and I like mine pressed,” he said.
Another history tidbit: 2013 is the 500th anniversary of Juan Ponce de León’s arrival in Florida during his expedition to discover the mythical fountain of youth. Born in 1460, he was a member of Christopher Columbus’ second expedition to the New World in 1493. He led his own expeditions afterward, and the Spanish crown encouraged him search out new lands in hopes of finding gold and expanding the empire.
Leading a private expedition from Puerto Rico to the Caribbean island of Bimini, where he heard there were miraculous waters that rejuvenated those who drank from them, the party instead landed on the southeast coast of what would be the United States.
He named the region Florida because he discovered it at Easter time (Pascua Florida) and because its vegetation was lush and floral.
So a wrong turn was made right. He went on to become the first governor of Puerto Rico.