- Lloyd DeGrane
- On the Cubano, proportion is everything.
When Mike Sula profiled Philip Ghantous back in 2008, his South Loop Cuban cafe, Cafecito, had made the Reader‘s list of the year’s most notable restaurants, and Sula was still marveling at the first-time owner’s achievement. A Lebanese-American actor from Peoria, Ghantous wasn’t the likeliest proprietor of a place that nails the correct proportion of mustard, pickle, and Swiss to ham and mojo-marinated pork for a top-flight Cuban sandwich. But his meticulousness helped make his version singular.
“The most important thing to me is you want it be warm on the inside,” he told Sula.”When it is, that’s when all the flavors come together. That’s why you want that mojo in there. You don’t want to just go off the mustard and the cheese and the juice from the pickle—you want the mojo.”
Now Ghantous is bringing his naranja agria mojo (sour orange with lime and lemon juice, cumin, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper) and the rest of his offerings to a more central Loop location, at 7 N. Wells, right by the Brown Line stop at Washington. Originally shooting for a November opening, he’s hoping for “the beginning of February at the very latest,” he says. “It’s been a big headache for me, even though it’s smaller.”