In the mid-1800s, the Cuban tobacco industry emerged in Florida, where it first emerged in Key West. Later, tobacco moved north to Tampa, with thousands relocating to Ybor City -- a historic neighborhood founded by cigar manufacturers with Cuban, Spanish, and Italian descent. Because of the influx of immigrants who mainly worked in factories, a quick, affordable lunch was yearned for. This marked the rise of the Cuban sandwich.
“The Cubans came to Florida and started making their sandwich here,” Astorquiza states. “But it started to mesh with more Spaniards and Italians too, which explains the sandwiches key ingredients today, like roasted pork, ham, and salami. In order to differentiate the sandwich made in Cuba with Florida’s new version, the Cubans in Tampa started calling it a 'Cuban sandwich.'” Astorquiza continues, “Being in Cuba, there was no need to say 'Cuban sandwich,' it was just a sandwich. But its popularity in Cuba and in the States is just the same. If you want to get technical, though, it’s called a Cuban sandwich for a reason -- it was made by Cubans.”
The ingredients inside a Cuban sandwich are simple: ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and if you’re in Tampa, salami. But recreating the age-old delicacy is far from easy. Putting aside the feud between Miami and Tampa for a moment, every Cuban sandwich needs Cuban bread -- which, although comparable to French or Italian bread, has a different baking method and ingredient list.