By Matt Selby
Gio’s Cuban Cafe, originally known as Pipo’s Cafe until earlier this year, is everything you could want and more from a Cuban restaurant. It’s important to note, that although the owner Gio Pena, has decided to part ways with the Pipo’s brand, nothing has changed; from the cooks in the back all the way through ownership.
“It’s important for me that our guests know that although our name has changed, the restaurant they have come to know and love for all these years hasn’t changed hands. It’s still me and my team and we will continue to provide our South Tampa community with excellent authentic and fusion Cuban cuisine,” says Gio.
Since day one, this fast casual restaurant has been more than just a great place to enjoy delicious cuban fare. It’s an emotional experience designed to create a family atmosphere and turn first time customers into longtime friends.
Local food guide David C. gives Gio’s a 5 star review and says, “Awesome food. The breakfast was terrific. The food was so fresh. The service was excellent too. Their bread is tough to beat. You can enjoy it on its own or past of their many terrific sandwiches. Decor is simple, but the atmosphere is cozy and comfortable. Must try in Tampa.”
Miami Native Rocco V. says, “I am from Miami and I have to say they knocked it our of the park. Best Cuban food I have had in a while. Rice was well cooked. Plantains were perfectly crispy yet soft and sweet. Nice portions. Friendly staff.”
I had the opportunity to sit down with Gio himself, and we explored some of their wonderful menu options together.
Of course, we started with their iconic Cuban Sandwich. I’ll be honest, growing up in Tampa, I’ve had my fair share of Cuban Sandwiches and what makes the Gio’s Cuban so special isn’t summed up by just one ingredient. From “La Segunda Bakery” Cuban bread, to the perfectly executed blend of mayo and mustard, to the perfect portion of mouth watering baked ham, roasted pork, genoa salami, mortadella and swiss cheese. This classic and iconic sandwich is definitely one of the customer’s favorite.
Frequent customer Brooke S. says, “Gio’s is a great little hole in the wall gem! A friend brought me here for lunch and being a Miami native I am very judgmental when it comes to Cuban food. The Cuban Sandwich was delish, they add a twist with lettuce and tomato. It was a generous portion and very good.”
“We are really proud of our Cuban Sandwich,” says Gio. “It is one of the most popular lunch options and one of the reasons why so many people come to visit us. We also have a Cuban Breakfast Sandwich option that’s also a favorite with our customers.” The Cuban Breakfast Sandwich includes a three egg omelet on toasty cuban bread, with your choice of bacon, sausage, chorizo, or ham, and topped with melted Swiss or American cheese. My wife Carla got to try this delicious creation, and she chose chorizo as her meat of choice. She says it was one of the best breakfast sandwiches she’s ever had. She also recommends to enjoy any breakfast sandwich with a delicious Cafe con Leche.
My wife is not the only one raving about Gio’s Cubans. Hundreds of satisfied customers give Gio’s Cuban Cafe 5 star reviews online and mention the Cuban Sandwich as one of the best they have ever had.Mrs. Berthoty, a recent customer says, “Gio’s has the best Cuban in town!” While Dan H., another recent customer and self-proclaimed Cuban Sandwich connoisseur says, “Possibly the best Cuban sandwich I’ve ever tasted!”
Next, we sampled an absolute Cuban classic called “Picadillo.” If you haven’t tried it before, I highly recommend it. It’s perfectly seasoned ground beef, prepared with onions, peppers, olives and capers. It was as delicious as it was authentic. Just look at the photo, enough said!
If you’re a fan of roast pork, you’d want to try their famous Roast Pork sandwich, which was labeled as “The Best of The Bay” by the weekly planet. Or if you prefer you can also order it as an entree. This family recipe dates back to 1979 and is still the best in Tampa Bay.
Joseph S. says, “Best Cuban food I have found in the area. They have the best Cuban bread and the best mojo pork hands down… it is perfectly cooked every time. When in doubts on what to other, try the pork, you will not regret it.”
Believe it or not, I tried even more fantastic dishes. Next, I enjoyed a delicious “Cuban Tamale.” I’ve never had one before, and it was fantastic! The taste is totally different than the Mexican tamale, which is made from cooked dried hominy corn. This Cuban Tamale was somewhat sweet but savory, with pieces of cooked pork, onions, garlic and other spices
Another must try dish is the “Trucha a la Rusa / Russian Trout.” This dish consists of a generous breaded trout filet topped with onions, pimientos, chopped eggs, parsley and peas in a butter and wine sauce. This house special and all others are served with your two choices of any soups, rices, or veggies and toasty Cuban bread & butter. Plus FREE Iced tea.
If you live in the area and you’re looking for a casual cozy spot with delicious and authentic Cuban options at affordable prices, look no further. They offer succulent and affordable daily specials and many incredible options for under $10. They also offer fantastic desserts, like the traditional Flan “Cuban Custard,” and Arroz con Leche “Rice Pudding,” amongst others. They also cater, so if you’re planning a special party or event and want to wow your guests with some authentic Cuban food, give Gio a call. “We offer a catering menu for any occasion. From office luncheons to receptions, from family dinners to holiday celebrations, allow us to do the cooking. Enjoy the party and let us take care of the details,” says Gio.
Gio’s Cuban Cafe is located at 411 S. MacDill, Tampa, FL 33609. They are open M-F 7am-8pm. Saturday 7:00am – 3:00pm and Sunday 8am – 2pm.
Delivery to your home, office, or event site is available on any order over $100 for a minimal charge.
For catering please contact: 813-871-5252 or 813-963-7476.