Outside - first impressions
After a scenic taxi ride, during which you’ll get to check out Miramar’s leafy avenues and pretty houses, you’ll reach La Carboncita and might wrongly mistake it for a garage in the distance, but once you get closer, its layout as a restaurant becomes apparent. Casual elegance is the key, with chunky hardwood chairs adding a rustic Italian touch while the crisp white linens dressing the table add a classy touch. Welcome to La Carboncita, if you think it looks nice from the exterior, wait until you step inside.
Inside - a classy touch
Yes, just look at those beautiful steps! A swift reminder that you’re stepping into what was a grand residential abode and has now been adapted to function as a restaurant, the beautiful marble staircase with its intricate iron railings and wrought-iron sculpture are powerful symbols of the wealth and decadence of the late 19th and early 20th century Havana in this part of the city. The fact that this house immaculately preserves these stunning touches adds to the unique dining experience.
The Food - tasty starters
Of course, none of the above matters if the food isn’t up to par, but as my luck would have it, the dishes were as tasty as the ambience was inviting. For starters, we chose a prawn and avocado cocktail first - tasty and light without an excess of mayonnaise, of which I was glad. We also tucked into stuffed vine leaves that were also delicious before savouring a flavourful and refreshing seafood salad. The right way to whet our appetite before the mains arrived.
The Food - succulent mains
One thing many people are quick to praise when they visit La Carboncita is the authentic pizza dough, done the traditional Italian way, which is really hard to find in Cuba, a nation renowned for its make-do alternatives due to lack of ingredients. But not in La Carboncita, where you’ll enjoy thin, crispy doughs topped by quality ingredients. I went for a tuned up Margherita with added fresh tomatoes, basil leaves and black olives. Seriously yum! One of my colleagues went for the circular slices of cheesy aubergine instead and raved about it.
In terms of extra condiments to season our food (not that any extra was needed) there wasn't a big selection but their own pick of olive oil and balsamic vinegar was excellent, as were their red and white wines. It was just a shame I was too full for dessert - the menu looked quite tempting!
Terrace - the ambiance
We were seated in the back patio or courtyard and enjoyed our meal to the lovely sounds of chirping and tweeting (and although I’m not keen on birds trapped in cages, these colourful and cute lovebirds looked content and well-looked-after). A beautiful wall fountain was the main centrepiece which didn’t seem to work at the time but was stunning anyway and added to the ambience.
Ideal for when the local staples of black beans & rice begin to feel a little tiresome and you crave a generous helping of homemade pasta with a quality similar to what you’d expect in a homely Italian eatery, La Carboncita is sure to fulfill your expectations and and satisfy your cravings. I know it did mine, as I left with a wide smile and a full belly.