Old Havana was started by Durhamites Roberto Copa Matos and Elizabeth Turnbull. Roberto is originally from Ranchuelo, Cuba (near Santa Clara in the central part of the island) and Elizabeth is from neighboring Fermathe, Haiti (in the mountains outside Port-au-Prince), but they are both thrilled to now call Durham their home. Elizabeth and Roberto met in Old Havana, Cuba, where Roberto was working as a water color artist. Elizabeth bought two of his paintings, and Roberto asked her out for a mango juice. The rest is, as they say, historia.
The idea for Old Havana Sandwich Shop was born at a local taquería where Roberto and Elizabeth lamented that they couldn't find Cuban food of the same quality as the wonderful Mexican and Central American options that are available in the area. They joked that they could always start their own place. Then they mentioned the idea to their friends and family. Then they decided "just to look" at a few spots Downtown. A sandwich shop was soon born and christened with the name of where the couple first met.
With Roberto's background in the arts and sciences, Elizabeth's studies in Latin American culture, and their mutual love of local, sustainable food, it was decided that Old Havana would become a staging ground for the things they love most.
Today, Old Havana has grown into a farm to table Cuban restaurant, sourcing ingredients from local providers as well as from its own sister farm, Terra Sacra, also owned by Roberto and Elizabeth.
From the beginning, we've had 3 major goals for Old Havana:
- To offer the highest quality Cuban food using locally sourced sustainable ingredients.
- To share Cuban culture with the Triangle, including music, dancing, art, and literature. (Politics we leave at the door.)
- To offer a safe place of employment for people who are in transition or looking for a fresh start. Roberto immigrated to the United States as a grown man, and he remembers what it was like having to start over. This is our small way of giving back and why we're proud to offer a fair wage and a positive work culture.