Downtown's Havana Pizza Slings Ropa Vieja on Plantain Crusts

With so many utilitarian Cuban places in town, it was inevitable someone would reimagine Cuba's best-known dishes in pizza form. 

About a month ago, Gabriel Martinez, a partner in downtown Miami's Havana Coffee & Tea Company, opened Havana Pizza (48 E. Flagler St., 305-250-1099). Nestled in one of the city's hidden food courts, here you can find a vaca frita pizza ($10 to $24) with shredded crisped flank steak, a garlicky sauce, and sliced onions on Cuban-style pizza dough. It's hit with a bit of butter to mimic the rich slickness of your favorite pan. There's also a pie that unfolds the classic Cuban sandwich while preserving the squiggle of taxi-cab yellow mustard.

The place is part of an ongoing project that began when Martinez was living in Los Angeles and managing music acts.

"I was out one night with some friends drinking sake, we got a little bombed, and all I wanted was a Cuban sandwich and coffee," he says. An effort to open a brick-and-mortar Cuban-style coffee shop didn't pan out, so Martinez in 2010 opened a food truck that ended up making it halfway through the second season of Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race. 

In 2012, he returned to Miami to care for aging parent though still determined to do something with food. The opportunity to grab the small space arose as Israeli developer Moishe Mana has been buying up large swaths of downtown buildings with plans to reinvigorate a mostly sleepy, decrepit downtown Miami. 

This gave Martinez a nearly no-risk opportunity to test his Cuban pizza concept. At the moment, he's offering delivery daily up to 11 p.m., with hopes to extend it to 5 a.m. He's toying with doughs with yuca, sweet plantains, or sweet potatoes folded in. In addition to the composed pizzas, there's the option to build one yourself ($10 to $22) using an array of ingredients he says start out the way his grandmother made them.

"We cook everything the old-school way first before we do anything with it," he says.

There's a sofrito as an occasional stand-in for tomato sauce, as well as a garlicky black bean sauce and chimichurri. All of the meats are also available alongside traditional picadillo and another made with ground turkey. 

If you want to go no-holds-barred, order the Manolo ($7 to $24). It's yuca dough, sofrito, mozzarella, and any four meats.

"Cuban culture is an exaggerated culture," Martinez says. "Everything is always abundant — that's the way I want to do it. You won't leave hungry."

For more, follow Zach on Twitter or Instagram.

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