James Covello may be a pioneer. Although he grew up in South Florida, originally in Miami to be exact, he not only moved across the country, but he brought real Cuban bread to Washington.
The Florida native already had some family here, by way of his father’s side, so the move wasn’t completely blind, but it’s still quite a trek — over 3,000 miles in fact.
However, it isn’t so much the voyage he and his family took, but rather what they have brought with them to their destination. Namely, Miami-inspired Latin food delivered through his new food truck, South Beach Cuisine.
Covello isn’t of Cuban heritage, his Hispanic background is by way of Puerto Rico, but when you grow up in South Florida, you are introduced to all things Cuban — especially the food.
Having worked at a few restaurants with his father, Covello always knew he wanted to work in the industry.
“I have always liked to cook since I was young,” Covello says. “And have always loved the flavors of South Florida.”
It began with his purchase of the Organic Lunchbox in Parkland. “We were looking for a commissary kitchen on Craigslist and stumbled across the Organic Lunchbox for sale,” he explains. “We bought it and kept their menu, but changed a few things and added all Boars Head products.”
The restaurant deals primarily in soups, salads, and sandwiches. A few weeks ago, he launched the food truck.
“I have been wanting to have a food truck for over 10 years,” says Covello.
And why South Beach? “South Beach is known for all the diverse Latin and island flavors,” he adds.
Although it’s been a longtime dream of his, operating the food truck is not a one-man show. His entire family chips in, from his wife making espresso and running the register, to his daughters also manning the register and helping with customers.
So how about the food? South Beach Cuisine offers up Miami-inspired items such as Cavello’s take on pan con bistec, which translates to “bread with steak” and is a popular steak sandwich in Cuban cuisine, plantain chips, and of course, the Cuban sandwich.
Cavello also recently added a “Cuban burger,” which contains a delicious, juicy beef patty, covered with Cuban sandwich ingredients such as ham, roast pork, mustard, and pickles.
James’ Puerto Rican, Italian, and American background play a role in customizing traditional South Florida flare, but the South Beach Cuisine food truck definitely serves the closest thing to Cuban food you can get in Tacoma. In fact, since Cuban bread is non-existent in Western Washington, he has it brought in from a Cuban bakery in Miami.
“The bread is overnighted,” he explains. “I feel it’s important for the taste and authenticity.” It doesn’t get more authentic than that.
That explains how the Cuban is probably the most popular sandwich on South Beach Cuisine’s menu — even with the owner. “I like them all,” he says about the menu items. “But my favorite would be the Cuban — and plantain chips.” Like he says, the sandwich is a must try.
Come winter, Cavello plans to increase the number of Miami-inspired items on the menu in time for the new year.
Readers can discover upcoming locations for the South Beach Cuisine food truck by following it on Facebook or calling (or texting) James at 206-227-4908.