Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Sun Sentinel.
Angelina Galiana watched her dream materialize before her very eyes and she grabbed it. And she saw an empty cuisine niche in east Boca Raton, so she filled it.
“Since I was 19 I wanted to have my own restaurant and now I’m 53,” Galiana tells the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “And here we are. My mom, when she [went] to the kitchen I used to tell her, ‘I want to be like you when I grow up.’ ”
Now she’s the sole proprietor of D’Cuban Cafe, an industrial chic restaurant in Palmetto Park Shoppes, just a few blocks from the drawbridge leading to the Intracoastal.
“It feels good. It feels so good when people tell me, people I’ve never met, and they say, ‘This is the best Cuban sandwich I ever had.’ They put it on Google. That’s what I want to see.”
So yeah, things are going well, she says, though they opened only a couple of weeks ago, on Halloween in fact.
“I am the only business, the only person doing an opening on Halloween,” she recalls. “My sister says, ‘Whatever comes out of your mouth, that’s what usually happens.’”
It was a visit with that sister that suddenly made D’Cuban Cafe possible. Although originally from South Florida, in 2002 Galiana and her husband, Roberto Navarrete, moved to Colorado where the construction business was booming for his drywall and construction company.
“This was God’s doing,” she recalls. “I came to visit my sister and I came to see how Florida is. Do I move? Anyway, I came to visit and that day I see a sign that they are selling this place. That day I bought a house and a business. I told my husband, ‘Now we’re really stuck.’ It was just one of those crazy things that I do without thinking.”
The couple moved back to Florida about a month and half ago, settling once again in Boca Raton. Immediately they began work, installing all new appliances and redesigning the interior — a skill Galiana had been contributing with the construction business for 30 years, when she was not catering, first for the crews and then for events.
“I would cook for 90-100 people. People started tasting my meals and they tell others and that’s when I started with catering.”
But even that couldn’t satisfy the need to have her very own restaurant. When the couple dined out, Galiana couldn’t help but offer her opinions, especially on the authenticity of so-called Cuban dishes. And that was a cuisine that the women — Galiana, her mother Mercy Rojas and her sister Ivón Gonzalez — felt was sorely lacking in east Boca Raton
So now her family helps out, but Galiana adds that she is essentially “the cook, the baker, the bartender, the waitress, the hostess.” She might have added mixologist as well since she also makes the sangria and mojitos.
The space was formerly Bonjour Vietnam restaurant and can seat 40 people inside at a counter and at tables. Outside, on the sidewalk, there are four tables that can handle an additional eight to 14 people. The walls are emblazoned with mural-sized photographs of Cuba and the late great “Queen of Salsa” Celia Cruz.
“She’s my idol,” Galiana says. “She made it. How she started, it wasn’t easy. No, it wasn’t. She became famous because she was good.”
Though later on she might expand the menu to include a few dishes from other countries, right now Galiana is focused on creating authentic Cuban cuisine.
The Eat Beat – Restaurants, Bars and Recipes Newsletter
Dining out, cooking in and all the South Florida restaurant news and information you need.
“My mother and grandmother are old-fashioned Cubans,” Galiana says. “You use nothing frozen. Everything has to be fresh. I’m doing cooking at this restaurant where people can really taste real Cuban food.”
So far the traditional Cuban sandwich ($15.50) and the churrasco grilled steak with house-made chimichurri sauce ($27.50) are the most popular items on the menu, with the pollo a la parrilla/grilled chicken breast with onions ($18) a close second.
As entrées, both the churrasco and the pollo a la parrilla come with two side dishes, which include arroz blanco (white rice), maduros (sweet plantains), yuca frita (fried yuca), arroz de cilantro (cilantro rice), tostones (smashed green plantains), frijoles colorado (red beans), frijoles negros (black beans). If ordered a la carte, the sides are $5 each.
- Appetizers include empanadas (three for $12.50), croquetas (four for $12) and tostones rellenos, which are fried green plantains topped with either shrimp, roast pork or guacamole (three for $10).
- From the sandwich board there are also Cuban classics such as pan con lechón (roast pork with garlic sauce) and croqueta preparada (croquetas with ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and mojo). All sandwiches are $15.50 and come with one side.
- Other entrees include chicharron de pollo (deep fried chicken drumsticks for $14.50) and camarones enchilados (shrimp creole for $25).
- There’s a children’s menu with fare such as cheeseburger ($10.50) and chicken fingers ($8), both served with fries.
- Baked goods include pastelitos (turnovers for $3) and deditos de queso y guayaba (cheese fingers with guava for $2.75). In addition to ice cream ($5), the other two desserts are flan and tres leches (both $10 each).
“I get here early, 4:30 in the morning, making everything fresh, from scratch. I bake my own baked [goods]. I don’t buy anything from like a bakery and sell it here [such as] my tres leches, my flan. I even do all my rices, three different rices and two different beans.”
After only two weeks, the flan — which she calls a “cheesecake flan” with “top secret” ingredients — is quickly becoming a bit of a legend.
“People don’t buy by the slice anymore,” Galiana explains. “They buy the whole thing.”
- D’Cuban Cafe is located at 249 E. Palmetto Park Road, Boca Raton (in the Palmetto Park Shoppes).
- There is metered parking on the street in front and a free parking lot in the back.
- 561-430-3390 or DCubanCafeFL.com.
- The hours for dine-in, takeout and delivery are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays; 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. Closed on Mondays.