Tuesday, April 24, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 7
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Authentic Cuban, rain or shine: Cubanissimo food truck hits the ground rolling in Santa Maria

BRENNA SWANSTON

At 12:41 p.m. on a recent Friday, I stood behind waiting customers at the Cubanissimo food truck. I propped up an umbrella with freezing fingers and fumbled with my armful of notebook, pen, recorder, and camera. The truck, whose paint job sported a tangle of cheery colors, stood bright against the solid gray sky. Rainwater seeped through my left boot, numbing my pinky toe and ruining my socks.


SO FAR, SO GOOD
After less than two months on the road, Cubanissimo has drummed up a happy fan base. Chef Arqui Trenado said he’ll be adding Cuban coffee to the menu in the next couple of weeks.
PHOTO BY BRENNA SWANSTON

I thought, frustrated: “I can’t believe it’s pouring rain in the middle of nowhere on Industrial Way and this freaking food truck still has a line.

At 1:16 p.m., I was back in my warm, dry office, chewing my first bite of my first Cubano sandwich. Everything else fell away.

I thought, lost in a delicious sandwich-induced daze: “Oh. I get it now.”

Cubanissimo owners Chrystal and Arqui Trenado are new to the streets of Santa Maria—at least in the food truck sense. They’ve been on the job for about a month and a half now, and according to Chrystal, it’s going well so far.

“We’ve had a great response,” she said. “We love it. Our passion is here in it, especially his passion. Being Cuban, it’s kind of his dream come true to be able to do this on the Central Coast.”


CUBANO
My first Cubano sandwich experience was a success. Panini-pressed Cuban bread with Cuban marinated pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard … I can die happy now.
PHOTO BY BRENNA SWANSTON

Arqui was a cook for nearly a decade in Cuba before he moved to the East Coast of the U.S., where he ran kitchens in New Jersey and New York. He and Chrystal met and fell in love in Miami, then moved out to California together. Arqui knew he wanted to keep cooking, and thus, Cubanissimo was born.

Arqui said he’s usually blasting music and salsa dancing during work. His favorite part of the job: “Being with the people. You see the people happy and smiling, and they like the food.”

Chrystal agreed.

“People really seem excited about it,” she said. “Part of why I think people are so excited is it’s something new, something different that they haven’t had before. It’s kind of neat to have real authentic Cuban food that you might not get unless you were down in Los Angeles or in the Bay Area.”

I, being the uncultured white girl I am, know nothing about Cuban food. Luckily, Chrystal gave me the low-down.

“Where Mexican food will be spicy, Cuban food is savory,” she explained. “So you don’t have spiciness to it. It’s just really complex flavors that come from that.”


DRINK UP
Cubanissimo carries a collection of Cuban sodas. They talked me into buying Ironbeer by telling me it would teach me how to Salsa dance. I checked out the drink’s sugar content immediately following my purchase, and I haven’t touched it since.
PHOTO BY BRENNA SWANSTON

Cubanissimo’s menu alters daily, but it almost always features the Cubano sandwich, which Chrystal said is a Cuban staple. The sandwich is built with Cuban marinated pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, pressed between two slices of Cuban bread and heated in a Panini press.

The sandwich is served with yucca fries, made from a starchy root and coupled with a garlic dipping sauce. (Reminder: This is the meal that convinced me a Cubanissimo dish is well worth a few soaked toes, but it also threw me into a minor food coma. Consume with caution.)

Chrystal said Arqui’s ropa vieja is another customer favorite. Arqui shreds steak—usually tri-tip—and cooks it in a tomato, garlic, onion, and red bell pepper sauce, finally serving the dish over rice.

Cubanissimo parks around Santa Maria several days a week, but it’s also been hired to cater weddings, engagement parties, retirement dinners, and other events. Chrystal said they sometimes take the truck out to wineries on the weekends, as well.

Until recently, Chrystal would only get to help Arqui on the truck during her lunch breaks. As of last Wednesday, however, Chrystal has parted from her job of nine years and is tackling Cubanissimo full time.

Roll out
Cubanissimo has roamed Santa Maria’s streets for the past month and a half, introducing our community to the loveliness that is authentic Cuban food. The food truck’s team said they’ve so far gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from their customers. For more info, go to facebook.com/CubanissimoFoodTruck.

“It’s scary and exciting,” she said. “This is our job now.”

As for me, I know I’ll be back. To keep up with Cubanissimo, check out updates on its menu and weekly locations on its Facebook page at facebook.com/CubanissimoFoodTruck.  

Brenna Swanston loved her Cubano sandwich but couldn’t finish it all. Let her know if you want the other half at bswanston@santamariasun.com.




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