Varadero is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba, possibly the world, which means it’s also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Just two hours from Havana, the popular beach town has been a weekend getaway for people in the capital for decades. The journey is spectacular too, with amazing views of the sea the full length of the trip, and it’s also a great opportunity to stop for a pan con lechón (bread with pork) in one of the many rustic restaurants on the side of the road.
But Varadero’s strong point is not its cuisine. Most restaurants are expensive and not as good as you can find elsewhere. It’s easy to end up paying US$20 for an overcooked, old lobster, especially if you don’t know where to go. But ever willing to give the benefit of the doubt, we went hunting through the many restaurants in the town to try and discover one worthy of a recommendation. And we did. So, Havana Insider proudly presents the clear winner of the title of best restaurant in Varadero: Nonna Tina.
Nonna Tina is a lovely Italian trattoria, cool and authentic, run by an Italian couple. It’s located in the garden of a spacious house just meters from the beach and has a summery, open and fresh vibe, with plants and ferns dotted around, sitting in the shade of a majestic frambollán tree.
We started with the cheese and raw prosciutto dishes to share, along with some delicious focaccias. The house specialty is the Neapolitan style pizza. The crust, lightly charred in a wood-burning oven, is thin and airy. We love the Margherita for its vibrant tomato sauce, the prosciutto di parma and arugula, and the Napoli, with anchovies and capers. If you’re in the mood for sea flavors, ask for the pasta with seafood, which comes with so much lobster, shrimp and clams you can hardly see the tagliatelle below. Imported Italian beers are available, with the likes of Birra Moretti adding a cold and refreshing end to a perfect day at the beach. For dessert we ordered a Cuban-style flan that melted in the mouth, along with a thick and intense espresso.
In the evenings the music gets cranked a little louder (without disturbing diners), and the restaurant gets more fun, more in tune with the general Varadero vibe. This place is a real find, and very hot right now, so you’ll need a reservation.
Schedule: Tuesday – Sunday, 12:00 – 23:00 hrs
Address: Calle 38 #5 e/ 1ra Avenida y Playa, Varadero, Matanzas