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Sarussi’s Secret Sauce Keeps Sandwiches Selling

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Above: Pascale Andree Theard takes a bite of Miami history at Sarussi Cafe and Restaurant

In Miami, there are very little variations of the Cuban sandwich. It’s pretty much ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles stuffed between two slices of buttered Cuban bread and heated in a Panini-like machine called la plancha.

However, in Tampa, where Cubans settled in the late 1800s, the Cuban sandwich is served with Salami because there was also a significant Italian immigrant community there at the time.

Although our Cuban sandwiches don’t come with salami, we do have our own Italian variation of the Cuban sandwich in Miami.

It comes with mozzarella cheese instead of Swiss. And instead of being cooked in la plancha, it is baked in a pizza oven on a homemade ciabatta-like loaf.

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And instead of mustard, a savory tomato-based sauce – a famous secret sauce - is spread on the inside once its done baking. And it’s all topped off with a garlicky butter brushed on top of the bread.

You can indulge in this delicacy at Sarussi Café and Restaurant, which has been serving this variation of the Cuban sandwich since the early 1960s.

Different Owners, Same Recipe

The restaurant has changed owners several times since then, but the name and recipe has remained the same.

In fact, for years, the sign outside proudly stated that it served “lo major sandwich en Miami” (the best sandwich in Miami).

The original owner was a man named Edmond Sarussi who passed away in 1973 at the age of 61, according to records.

The current owner of Sarussi’s is a Venezuelan woman of Russian descent named Tatiana Prokopovich. She doesn’t know much about the original owner but believes he was Cuban of Italian descent.

But that may be more folklore than reality because as Italian or Cuban as it may sound, Sarussi appears to be more of a Jewish name.

Either way, Edmond Sarussi was running an Italian restaurant complete with pizza and pasta when one of his workers recommended he start selling Cuban sandwiches, according to Prokopovich.

This was in the early 1960s when thousands of Cubans were emigrating to Miami in the wake of Fidel Castro’s seize of power.

Because he already had the pizza ovens, he came up with his own variation of the sandwich, which became an instant hit.

“After a while, he stopped selling pizza and pasta because all everybody wanted were the sandwiches,” said Prokopovich.

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Top Secret Sauce

Despite my urging, Prokopovich refused to reveal the ingredients of the Sarussi secret sauce. All she would say is that it contains pickles, which is not something you think of when you taste it. As nice as she is, she was probably trying to mislead me.

I’ve been eating the sandwich for decades – way before she became owner -  and I’ve determined that it contains garlic, mojo (Cuban citrus-garlic marinade), maybe some Tabasco … oh hell, I don’t know. All I know is that it complements the sandwich perfectly.

While Sarussi sells various sandwiches that includes the sauce and all the works, including steak, chicken and pork, the thing to do here is stick with el original. You can never go wrong with the original.

You may even want to ask for a little extra sauce on the side, as many of us locals do.

Unlike many Cuban joints in Miami, Sarussi slices the ham extremely thin, which I believe enhances the flavor of the sandwich by providing an overall balance, rather than let the ham overpower the sandwich.

But just because the ham is sliced thin doesn’t mean they’re skimping. The 16-inch sandwich comes with 20 slices of ham, 15 slices of roast pork, eight slices of mozzarella cheese and six slices of pickles. All this for $9.99. Of course you could feed two or three people with it. I remember when those sandwiches were five bucks.

The original location still resides on Eight Street just west of 67th Avenue but they have since opened three in Hialeah and one by Florida International University’s south campus.

And next month, Prokopovich plans on opening a new location in West Palm Beach.

I asked her why not open one up on South Beach, which will be sure to be a hit, especially if she decides to keep it open 24 hours-a-day.

“That would be a good location but we would need to buy a place that is already a cafeteria (in the Cuban sense, not American sense) because otherwise it would be too expensive to set it up,” she said.

In the meantime, it is worth a drive off the beach to the mainland because not only would you experience a sense of Miami culture, but history as well.

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Above: The final touch is the brushing of garlic butter on top of the sandwich

5 Locations

6797 SW 8th St.
Miami, Fl. 33144
(305) 264-5464

10600 SW 8th St
Miami, FL 33174
(305) 207-6060

3670 W. 12th Ave.
Hialeah, Fl. 33012
(305) 824-4944

2750 W. 68th St.
Hialeah Gardens, Fl. 33016
(305) 817-2424

301 Palm Avenue
Hialeah, Fl. 33012
(305) 885-3644

Related Categories: Dining Miami: Food & Restaurant News, Miami: Things to Do,

Carlos Miller is a featured writer at Miami Beach 411. He also operates Photography is Not a Crime, a blog about photographer rights, New Media and First Amendment issues.

See more articles by Carlos Miller.

See more articles by Carlos Miller

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12 Comments on

"Sarussi’s Secret Sauce Keeps Sandwiches Selling"

gcbron says:

Not a fan of the Sarussi Cuban Sandwich. I’ve had them from the Hialeah and 8th Street location but found them both repugnant. The sauce doesn’t mesh well with the other ingredients. It’s a huge sandwich and if you like it, it can certainly be shared between 2 or 3 people.

Fortunately, the 8th Street location is close to El Mago de las Fritas, a much better alternative.

Posted on 07/24/2009 at 11:40 AM

Margarita says:

I love the sandwich and the people working there.  I always ask my Original to go and ask for extra sauce because it’s really good!
I am very happy to know the place and encorage people to go.
I like to try new places but for cuban sandwich… I’m stick with this!

Posted on 07/25/2009 at 1:50 AM

Ileana says:

I am not Cuban and I don’t love Sandwishes, but three months ago I gave a try to Sarussi’s Original.  It was perfect and delicious.
I like the place because I can go with my kids and friends. I’ve been at the one in 67 Ave and the one close to FIU (very good location).  They are clean and spacious and also they have room for large groups.
Last time I went with my friends, they tried the Chorizo Sandwish and the tuna wrap.  They were amazing.

Posted on 07/25/2009 at 8:16 AM

Tio Willy says:

I’m a regular customer at Sarussi, 67th Ave.  I go for Saturday’s breakfast with my nephews before baseball practice. You see nice people having a good time there.  I’ve tried almost every food in the menu and I love them all. It a nice place, clean and safe. 
Ask for Marilyn.  She is lovely.
Call (305) 2645464, they prepare your sandwish to go! When you are in a hurry!! Don’t forget to Ask for the Sauce

Posted on 07/25/2009 at 8:44 AM

Joe says:

Quien no ha probado un sandwich en Sarussi no esta en nada…

Posted on 07/25/2009 at 7:26 PM

Monica Guadarrama says:

It’s good to know that Sarussi is thinking about opening more locations.
Si es el mejor SAndwish in MIami
Yes, it is the best sandwich in Miami

Posted on 07/26/2009 at 8:36 AM

Angeles de la Caridad says:

Don’t feel like cooking?
Sarussi has very Good Food w/ Reasonable Prices. 
Has you been at the bakery in HIaleah!!! Amazing Pastelitos…very hot baker!!  See you there!!

Posted on 07/26/2009 at 9:49 AM

NATALIA PROKOPOVICH says:

MI HERMANITA TIENE LOS MEJORES SANDWICHES DE MIAMI

Posted on 07/26/2009 at 8:43 PM

Emily says:

I went to Sarussi because I saw an interesting program on TV two weeks ago, they were talking about the best Cuban /Sandwish in Miami and I got curious about it.
I love the Original sandwish.  It was worth to go and try it.
I’m sure I’m going to become aRegular in this place.

Posted on 07/31/2009 at 8:56 PM

Alfredo de Vzla says:

I have known the Prokopovich family for a long time!
We have been at the 67th Ave location.  All the Sandwiches are delicious!
Los mejores sandwiches de Miami.
Te sientas en la barra y ves como los preparan!!!

Posted on 08/01/2009 at 6:23 AM

Ruben Rodriguez says:

For years I’ve been going to Sarussi Restaurant and it has the best Cuban Sandwich. Out of all the Locations I prefer the location on 106 ave and 8th street. It has the best service.

Posted on 10/10/2009 at 9:14 PM

Margarita says:

The original is the best cuban sandwish… or ask for the churazco one.  Last time I went I saw people from Tampa who came just because they read this article. That is good.


Margarita

Posted on 10/11/2009 at 1:12 PM

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