The Versailles, 50 years of gastronomic memory and history of the Cuban exile

The Versailles restaurant in Miami, part of the living and sentimental history of the Cuban exile, celebrated its 50th anniversary this Wednesday with a great party for which it recovered for one time the menu from when it opened its doors and its stoves.

“We are very happy to be 50 years old. Our first feeling is of gratitude to the community, for supporting us in this way, and to the employees, always ready for anything, whether a president (from a nation) comes” or the daily clientele, says Nicole Valls, one of the granddaughters of the family saga of the restaurant.

The success of the local and international clientele that fills its dining rooms is the result of the efforts of a family, the Valls, who, instead of resting on their laurels, have been able to continue strengthening the good work of the house to place it as the most popular Cuban restaurant. world-famous.

First, through its founder, Felipe Valls, the Cuban who arrived in Miami in 1960, aged 25, after the revolutionary government confiscated his family’s various businesses.

Nicole Valls,
Nicole Valls.

And now with the continuity of his son Felipe Valls Jr. and his granddaughter Nicole, who take care of and pamper a traditional family cookbook, a “grandmother’s kitchen”, as they say, always based on the best market products. and the quality of the dishes they offer, such as the Palmilla (beef steak), the old clothes, the rice with chicken, the Galician broth or the pork dumplings.

The Valls family wanted to celebrate these five decades of Cuban culture and cuisine with clients, family, and friends who during this time have been linked to Versailles, a mandatory stop on Calle Ocho, in the Little Havana neighborhood.

While the special tent installed outside the restaurant is filling up with guests, the entrance to the premises is an agglomeration of diners waiting for them to say their name into the microphone.

A LITTLE PIECE OF CUBA

One of the people who wait patiently at the door for her turn is the Cuban Eida Artigas, a parishioner of Versailles since the year it was founded, in 1971, a bowling enthusiast (beef stuffed with chorizo) that elevates the restaurant to the category of “Cuban icon”.

“It’s a little piece of Cuba and whenever I come I remember my mother,” says Artigas just before going inside.

The Versailles

Just for today, the Valls have recovered the menu from 1971 … with the prices of then, with classic dishes, among others, such as picadillo a la Cubana ($ 1.95), arroz con pollo ($ 2.25), palomilla ($ 3.25) or the special of the day, one of the signature dishes of the house: roast suckling pig with Cuban mojo ($ 2.92).

The Versailles is “more than a restaurant, it is a place where freedom is celebrated thanks to a family that has created a place where presidents and electoral candidates come to have their coffee” when they are in Miami, said the mayor of the city, Francis Suárez, re-elected last week for a second term.

And it is that today the Versailles is a mandatory visit, especially in election time, for politicians who come to savor their cut coffee and be seen in the “little window” of the premises, an invention of the founder, Felipe Valls, which today should be Miami-Dade County Cultural Heritage.

For the Republican congressman and former Miami mayor Carlos Giménez, who did not miss the party either, “Versailles is the cultural center and of Cuban exile for years and years.”

“When something happens in Cuba we come here. It is a part of our culture and history (…) When the night ends and you want a coffee with milk with toast or bread with suckling pig, you come to Versailles. see, you come here, “he declares.

While the party continues under the outdoor tent with live music, appetizing pinchos, mojitos, and photocall, in the restaurant rooms there is not a free table.

The Versailles

A SECOND HOUSE

“For us, it is our second home. We come every Tuesday and Thursday, we will celebrate all anniversaries and eat meat with potatoes and chicken salad,” says Cuban Waldo Puig, for whom Versailles is “a flag.”

“There is no richer food than this”, sentenced from a neighboring table José Vélez, a 69-year-old Puerto Rican, very identified “with the cause of the freedom of Cubans.”

The history and daily life of the Cuban community in Miami would be inconceivable without this familiar restaurant with forceful popular cuisine and abundant servings that cement its success, as Nicole Valls explains, in “always treating the customer well, giving the best product to the best price “and” with work ethic.

A formula that, for sure, guarantees a long and solid future for Versailles: “50 years, nostalgia. Rumba of roast suckling pig with Moor, yucca and passion”, reads a rhyme on the menu.

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