Caffe Abbracci has been catering to the high-end clientele in Coral Gables well before the neighborhood was a dining destination. For the past 25 years it has been a go-to spot for those looking impress a date, have a power lunch or wanting to indulge in some high-end Italian cuisine.
Manning the restaurant's dimly lit bar for the past two decades has been Luis "Lucho" Cuba, who has been with Abbracci since 1995. He has seen a lot of stuff happen inside this Italian outpost in his time here including run-ins with a famous Beatle and even James Bond. In honor of Classics Week, he gives Eater Miami some insight into his time at the bar, what his favorite drinks to make are and some of his craziest encounters with customers.
How long have you been working at Abbracci?
19 years. I started October 1995.
Since October of ’95, what have you noticed has changed, if anything?
The restaurant is getting older and the people coming in are getting older. Since we have a lot of local people coming in you see them every day. Even though we are doing the same amount as we did years ago, the crowd is older. The crowd has grown with us. We know them. It’s a big family.
So what do you think makes Abbracci stand out?
I think it’s our service. It starts at the door with Nino and the managers and it goes all the way down to the busboys. We know the customers by name, and even when don’t know the customers by name the service will still be the same. We will try to find out to find out your name. But basically that’s what we want, personal service for everybody. That’s why we’ve been here for so long.
What’s your favorite drink to make?
I have many. In this bar it’s more Manhattan, more martinis, regular scotches on the rocks, stuff like that. It’s an older crowd, so that’s what they want. Ladies ask for Cosmos and Apple Martinis. We aren’t one of those bars on the beach with their fancy mixologists, we’re more classical here. Regular martinis, Manhattans, Old Fashioneds.
Do you have a signature drink?
Well me and the other bartenders like our Cosmos and we also like our Manhattans. We do them all from scratch.
This restaurant has had many celebrities come through it’s doors in the past 25 years, do you have a favorite celebrity encounter?
The biggest celebrity was Paul McCartney from the Beatles. He came in three or four times with his body guard who’s this big Irish guy. This guy came in and really wanted to talk to him [McCartney] but you can’t because he’s very private, doesn’t want to talk. So he came in and the guy just went to the table and the security guard grabbed him and took him out. He said, "no you don’t do that, you ask me first."
But the rest, we’ve had Latin stars like Shakira and Luis Miguel, from the Heat LeBron James used to come a lot with Pat Riley along with Dwayne Wade. The original 007, Sean Connory used to come too. I was very amazed with him. I used to always watch him in the movies. Madonna used to come in the 90s also with Ingrid Casares, but not anymore.
What’s the weirdest request you’ve gotten at the bar?
We’ve had many weird requests at the bar. One time we had a girl here that wanted to dance, but there wasn’t anyone in the back room so we put on the music and let them go dance. That was the strangest thing I ever got, "can I sit over there? She’s going to dance now." But that was back in the 90s and the 90s were a crazy time. Nothing bad. She just wanted to dance — not like a stripper dance. This isn’t a crazy bar, but sometimes people want to stay until 2 or 3 in the morning, which usually we close at 12.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
I’d say knowing people. I’ve seen so many people that come by here. I see them every day. Sometimes when I go out they say, "Hey Lucho, how are you?" I don’t remember them but they know me. It’s nice knowing a lot of people, especially in the Gables because you have a lot of important people coming in.
Any pitfalls of the job?
I’d say the hours you put in. It can affect your marriage, your personal life. But it happens. Especially the hours when we work is when you party. Not a lot of people like that. They want to sit down on Friday or Saturday night and you can’t.
What do you think makes a good bartender?
Personal service and discretion. Even if you know someone, saying Mister and Misses. Very discreet. We give you personalized service but we don’t ask questions. That’s the best thing to do. You let the customer open up to you first. They start the conversation. Until then you just serve.
When you’re not at Abbracci, do you have any other favorite bars in town?
I like Seasons 52, it’s a beautiful bar. I also like the bar at Smith and Wollensky is also very nice. The one outside. Those two and here are the best bars.