The flavors of Arqui Trenado’s native Cuba have come rolling into San Luis Obispo County in the form of a food truck he owns with his wife, Chrystal.
Though based in Santa Maria, Cubanissimo has a consistent presence in San Luis Obispo. In addition to a regular Tuesday lunch stop at Broad Street and Tank Farm Road, the Trenados serve food at Bang the Drum Brewery’s trivia night about once a month.
In recent months, Cubanissimo has been spotted at events at Avila Beach Golf Resort, Harmony Cellars and Mission San Luis Obispo. The festive trailer is hard to miss; every inch is covered with bold, vibrant graphics invoking Cuban culture.
Arqui Trenado immigrated from Camagüy, Cuba, to the United States in 1997 “to fulfill a dream of freedom.”
He met his future wife, who was born and raised in Arroyo Grande, while she was on a business trip back east in 2010. It didn’t take long for Chrystal Trenado to convince him to move to California, and the couple settled in Orcutt.
Getting their Cubanissimo business on the road took much more effort.
The Trenados both had full-time jobs when they bought a basic trailer. Arqui Trenado did most of the buildout himself, rewiring and installing equipment on nights and weekends. Combined with getting the necessary inspections and permits, it was almost two years before the rig was ready to roll in February 2016.
When it did, Cubanissimo’s authentic cuisine quickly gained traction.
Drawing on Caribbean, Spanish and African influences, “Cuban food uses a lot of spices, but it’s not spicy heat,” Arqui Trenado explained. “There’s a lot of cumin, garlic and lime — a lot of layered flavors.”
“We also put a lot of effort into our sourcing to really bring people a true taste of Cuba,” Chrystal Trenado said. Except for two recently added American soft drinks, everything on the truck is Cuban in origin or tradition — right down to the imported sodas and breads baked locally according to the Trenados’ specifications.
Those breads are crucial in driving Cubanissimo’s menu.
Two signature items are the Cubano and Medianoche sandwiches. (The former is as ubiquitous in Cuba as grilled cheese in America.) Both are toasted on the flattop grill and feature ham, marinated pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles.
The difference between them is the bread. The Cubano is served on a French-style bread, the Medianoche on a sweeter, crustier variety.
Sides include yuca fries — think steak-cut potato fries, but starchier — with garlic dipping sauce, or tostones. A popular snack throughout Latin American and Caribbean, tostones are green plantains — a member of the banana family that’s starchy and lower in sugar — that have been sliced, fried, mashed and fried again.
Dessert is usually a tempting mango bread pudding.
For other options, Arqui Trenado pulls from about 20 possibilities, such as beef picadillo stew, chicken and potatoes in tomato sauce or black beans over rice. All are traditional dishes he learned cooking with his family, especially his father.
“In Cuba, we don’t really use recipes,” Trenado said. “We transfer our language of food through generations, and there’s a lot of community around food.”
Cubanissimo has generated its own community within its customers.
“We have a lot of Cubans come to the truck,” many who haven’t seen their relatives or their homeland for years, Arqui Trenado acknowledged. “They’ll listen to the music we play, taste the traditional food and, through that, they’ll remember their families and Cuba.”
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The scene: The festive food trailer parks at various locations and special events.
The cuisine: Authentic Cuban dishes made from family recipes; non-alcoholic drinks include imported Cuban sodas.
Expect to spend: $12 plates include sides; a la carte sides $5, dessert $3.