La California, a few blocks away from the Malecón in Centro Habana, occupies a 19th century house that was a “cultural center” back in the 1930s. It was a popular hang-out for jazz musicians, including Chano Pozo, who later became Dizzy Gillespie’s percussionist. Today the restored house comprises four dining areas, one in the large skylight-covered interior patio. Each room seems to have a distinct personality and its own funky decor.
Food offerings include many Italian staples such as great wood-oven pizzas, plus a variety of pastas and risottos. But barbecued meats are what really rule here. We were there on a hot day, so we started with a refreshing and slightly spicy gazpacho, then went ahead and plunged into a generous serving of their barbecued ribs. They were amazing. The tender and succulent meat almost flaked off the bone. It’s obvious in every dish that the owner pays a lot of attention to the quality of ingredients, and to technique.
La California’s fare goes beyond food and wine (Rioja and Ribera del Duero take up most of the list)–with guided tours that include a vintage car ride. There’s also a separate smoking room if you want to enjoy a cigar during or after dinner.
Address: Calle Crespo #55 entre San Lazaro y Refugio, Habana, Cuba,
Tel: + 53 7 8637510
Opening hours: noon till midnight