When you step into Cafe Mi Vitrola in Miami Lakes, you’ll be transported to Old Cuba— the vibrant, pre-revolutionary, nostalgia-evoking era on the island.
It is restaurateur Rufino Paulino’s vision for his new restaurant, located at 15352 NW 79 Ct. in the Park Centre Shops that he aims to open in September.
Paulino owns two other eateries in Miami Lakes: Dr. Limon Ceviche Bar and Cruzeiro Brazilian Steakhouse, both in the Cypress Village Shopping Center.
The town government and community have been welcoming of his restaurants. He and his family live just outside of Miami Lakes, in unincorporated Miami-Dade County.
“We love it, we love the people,” Paulino said about the town where he has based his burgeoning restaurant empire.
“People have been so supportive with us since day one,” he said. “It’s just the vibe. I think Miami Lakes is like a magnet because people from Hialeah, from Miramar, from Pembroke [Pines], from parts of Doral, Hialeah Gardens… they come here,” he said.
At Cafe Mi Vitrola, diners will sit beneath hanging greenery in a courtyard-like setting that will be flanked by two bars and a live band, Paulino says.
The plan is also to adorn walls with red brick and cracked concrete accents, vintage posters, license plates and vinyl records. Cocktails will be poured into eccentric alternatives to glassware — a cow horn, a camera lens or a light bulb, like the drinks that are also being served at his Cruzeiro Brazilian Steakhouse.
“We want it to be, honestly, Instagram-able,” Paulino, 37, said.
Guests will enjoy classic dishes from different Latin American countries with a “twist,” he said.
The menu will include: Ropa Vieja, the stewed beef that is the national dish of Cuba; ceviche; Lomo Saltado (thinly sliced steak in tomatoes and onions served over rice and French fries); paella and tacos.
“It’s going to remind you of how your grandma or your mom cooked,” Paulino said. “And there’s no better food than your mom’s.”
He simply wants patrons to unplug and have fun while enjoying a meal and live music, which he said is the type of entertainment Miami Lakers are craving.
“Why a Cuban theme?” Paulino said. “My wife is Cuban and Cuban ambience and music are fun. Everybody is so relaxed, always in a fun, party mood. So, I wanted that.”
He credits his wife, Melissa, with naming the restaurant: Vitrola translates to ‘phonograph’ in Spanish and, in Cuba, refers to jukeboxes.
Paulino says the live band will play music popular in jukeboxes during the years before the Communist Revolution, and will include boleros, a genre of romantic ballads.
“It reminds you of the golden era of Cuba,” Paulino said.
It’s also the music his Dominican father and Cuban father-in-law would listen to. The house band will play salsa music, too.
Paulino emigrated from the Dominican Republic in 2005 and immediately started working in the restaurant industry, even though he studied civil engineering in his homeland.
“I got the hang of it,” he said about the hospitality business. “Supposedly I was good. I fell in love with it.”
Why? It allows his creative juices to flow.
“I think it’s the transformation of so many raw ingredients,” he said. “You can turn [food] into something so tasty, so beautiful, so aromatic, and I think love starts with the belly. And, of course, music and the ambience help too."
Follow the restaurant’s Instagram posts at CafeMiVitrola.