I jump out of the Uber and into the light rain, ducking under the ceiling of La Ventanita before scurrying over to the Bakery. I wipe my foggy glasses and camera lens and head inside.
Right away I’m greeted by the women working the counter. It’s still early enough that the bakery is deprived of people, except for myself and the two waiting for their order.
My eyes are quickly drawn to the pastry case. I take a peek inside, which feels more like an exercise in provoking my appetite since I already know what I’m ordering.
“El que sigue!”
“Buenos días, mi niña! ¿Que te voy a dar?”
“Un mini Cubano, un pastelito de queso y guayaba y un café con leche mediano, por favor”, I tell Rosario, whose personality is as bright as the sun now shining outside.
She nods and scurries off, probably thinking about how often she hears the same words. They’re known for their Cubanos, and I need something quick and straightforward. I stuck with the mini because I don’t feel like scarfing down a whole sandwich, plus a coffee, plus a pastry. Look at me, exercising restraint.
As I wait, I shyly ask her if it’s ok for me to take her picture. Even through her mask, I can see her smile.
With my tray in one hand and my card in the other, I carefully waddle over to the table furthest away from the door. Because of social distancing, of course. Nothing to do with my increasing social anxiety.
People have slowly started to stream in, and by the time I settle into my chair, the line has almost reached my table. Oh well.
The first bite of Cubano is amazing. So is the second. And the third. Damn it, I should have gotten the large one. I could easily finish this off in like, another 4 bites. The cheese is evenly melted and gooey. The pickles are just salty enough. The mustard is quite strong, but doesn’t overshadow the pork or the ham. It might have been mini, but it’s certainly big on flavor.
The pastelito is just as good. The pastry is perfectly flaky and crisp, and the filling creamy, sweet, and just slightly tangy. It reminds me so much of the hojaldres I would get at the panaderías back home, which I haven’t had in years. I did have one like this at WDW during Food and Wine Festival two years ago, which was ok but much denser and a tad soggy.
I’ve said this before, I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I dislike it quite a bit unless there are considerable amounts of cream and sugar involved, but I had never enjoyed one quite as much as I did today. Whether that’s due to the quality of the coffee, the atmosphere at the bakery, the peace of being able to sit down with nowhere to be for quite a few hours, or just the excitement of what’s to come (despite the absolute shite year it’s been), I don’t know.
But it feels damn good.