Raul Gisbert Jr. doesn't remember who had the idea to make a pressed sandwich with fried chicken. "It was back in the early '80s," recalled the owner of Bay Shore's La Cubanita Deli. "We always had fried chicken on the steam table, and customers would ask for it with bread. Then someone started cutting the meat off the bone and putting it on the bread."
By the late '80s, the sandwich, which has come to be called the Cubanita, achieved its present form: A counterman takes a cleaver to a fried chicken leg (thighs and drumsticks), removes the meat and skin and roughly chops them. A French roll is slathered with Hellmann's mayo and the meat is heaped inside and anointed with Goya hot sauce. The sandwich goes into the press to emerge, a few minutes later, hot, crusty, juicy and savory. It costs $5.
The modest deli is a block away from Brentwood High School and, Gisbert said, three generations of students have made that sandwich their lunch. "Sometimes the teacher will take up a collection and we'll just deliver sandwiches to the whole class," he said.
La Cubanita was opened in 1975 by Raul Gisbert Sr., a Cuban émigré. Originally little more than a bodega, the elder Gisbert, a gifted cook, started adding more and more hot food. At 79, he still comes to work every day to make sure his recipes are being followed.
The pressed Cubano sandwich, made from slow-roasted pork shoulder, ham, Swiss and pickles, is another customer favorite (and another steal at $5). The steam table also boasts dozens of Cuban specialties such as congri (white rice mixed with black beans), palomilla (pan-fried steak with onions) and carimanolas (meat-filled yucca fritters).
La Cubanita Deli
1827 5th Ave., Bay Shore, 631-273-9218