René Mesa, better known as Piro, is said to be one of the best cooks in Cuba for the coveted roasted pig.
At his farm, located about 30 miles east of Havana between the towns of Jaruco and Santa Cruz del Norte, Piro and his helpers roast in special kilns and the pigs they raise eat a diet of palmiche, the fruit of the royal palm, which gives the meat a unique flavor.
But those who want to treat family, friends or potential business clients in Cuba with the tasty pork morsels don’t have to travel to the island. Orders can now be done from Miami.
Just call a local number, say where you want the food delivered and pay the fee. The roasted pork will be prepared in Cuba, accompanied by side dishes, and delivered to the intended recipients on the island.
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“We work with seriousness and respect, and we have no complaints from our customers,” the cook said in a telephone interview.
Piro has more than 10 years of experience in the business, and is so well known that famous American Chef Emeril Lagasse recorded part of episode six of his series “Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse” on Piro’s farm.
“I really haven’t had a more tastier pig ever in my life,” Lagasse says in the episode, “Forbidden Cuba.” “It’s not over-seasoned. You can taste every bite of the pork. It’s just fantastic.”
I really haven’t had a more tastier pig ever in my life.
Chef Emeril Lagasse
An order that serves 25 people, including a roasted pig weighing about 65 pounds, congrí rice, cassava with mojo and salad, costs about $100, delivery included.
Deliveries extend from Piro’s farm to Havana province in the west and Matanzas province in the east.
But Piro is not the only Cuban cook taking orders from abroad.
Several private restaurants, known on the island as paladares, have begun to offer a similar service. Ads for the meals can be found on various websites.
“Full pigs roasted on charcoal. Free shipping throughout the capital. Call in Miami for reservations and payment. Possibility of payment abroad to surprise your family in Cuba,” reads an ad in the Cuba classifieds site Revolico.
The restaurant, named Mi Sofía, also offers “buffet for events, weddings and parties in general.”
To place an order, the advertisement has a telephone number in Havana and another in Miami.
A person who answered the phone in Miami declined to comment on the ad offers, stating that “everything in Cuba gets distorted.”
But with phone rates to call Cuba at $1 per minute, on average, the possibility of placing an order by calling a number in Miami is both convenient and cost-saving.
Piro’s niece, Norei Mesa, who lives in Miami, is one of the people who takes orders for his roast pork.
“If there is no special date, I get two to three orders a week,” she said. “On special dates like Christmas or New Year, orders are sold out since mid-November.”
Piro also offers empanadas and mutton stew known as chilindrón. But he is famous for his pig.
His meals often make it to other provinces across Cuba, hauled by customers on the island.
Mesa said some customers have taken her uncle’s roasted pig by ferry to the Isle of Youth or by train to the eastern edge of Cuba. An Angolan ambassador once took two cooked pigs home on a plane.
Besides Mesa, Piro “has people all over the world” who take orders, she said.
Payments are handled in cash, although for a while Mesa tried to accept credit cards: “It was very complicated with the bank account.”
Piro said he accepts various forms of payment in Cuba.
So far, the business relies solely on word of mouth. But Piro’s son, who also lives in Miami, “wants to put it on Facebook,” he said.
Follow Abel Fernández on Twitter: @abelfglez
For more information on ordering Piro’s roasted pig, call 305-392-1461. Ads for other roasted pig orders available in Cuba can be found at www.revolico.com