New Jersey’s known for its tasty tomatoes and odoriferous turnpike. Now, thanks to a controversial pronouncement from a chef and Food Network personality, its latest claim to fame is the Cuban sandwich.
Carl Ruiz sparked a social media storm this week when he told a popular NJ.com food writer that the country’s best Cuban sandwich can be found at La Pola, a hole-in-the-wall diner in West New York, NJ.
On Wednesday, Ruiz, who formerly owned Marie’s Italian Specialties with his ex-wife, Marie Riccio, took reporter Peter Genovese on a tour of New Jersey’s finest Cuban spots. While scarfing down a snack at La Pola, Genovese tweeted a photo of the slender half-sammie, along with this caption: “is this the country’s best Cuban sandwich? @carlruiz thinks so.”
The Cuban sandwich, or Cubano, is traditionally a savory-sweet mix of ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles. In Florida, home to the majority of Cuban Americans, the meaty lunch is a mainstay — and food lovers from the Sunshine State were not amused by Genovese’s tweet.
“What a ridiculous statement. Come to Tampa,” one user responded.
Another offered up an alternative spot: “That’s incorrect. The best Cuban sandwich in the country is in Miami, Fl. At a place called @SanguichDeMiami.”
Still, at least one user threw down in support of La Pola. “I second it. Never had anything quite as good. Not even in Miami. The 41 years of making that sandwich honed the perfection for sure.”
Meanwhile, Ruiz — who’s appeared on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” and who, according to Genovese’s, has sampled more than 500 different Cubanos in his lifetime — refused to step down.
When a well-intentioned tweeter suggested Ruiz had simply misspoken, the Cuban chef had this to say: “Not a mistake, my friend.”