Even though the Cuban sandwich is essentially just a fancy ham, pork, and cheese sandwich, the controversy over its origin is piping hot. In the late 19th century, the sandwich was a lunchtime staple of Cuban cigar factory workers. So it’s no surprise that Tampa, nicknamed Cigar City, claims to have put the Cuban sandwich on the map (in America, at least). The sandwich itself was not mentioned in any U.S. records until 1906, in The Tampa Tribune.
But the Cuban-American haven of Miami is unwilling to concede the fight, claiming that Tampa’s Cuban sandwich is not authentic. The Miami preparation of the sandwich is more traditional, while Tampa’s includes salami—an Italian meat. This is explained by the droves of Italians who moved to Cuban-dominated communities in Central Florida after the lynchings of Italian-Americans in New Orleans throughout the 1890s.
The evolution of the Cuban sandwich exemplifies how Florida’s historical embrace of immigrants has created new delicacies we can all enjoy together.