"The Fight Doctor"


The Columbia Restaurant

Spanish Cookbook


Adela Hernandez and Ferdie Pacheco M.D.


Out of secrets and dreams and romance, Adela Hernandez Gonzmart and Ferdie Pacheco re-create their passion for the Columbia in this narrated cookbook inspired by the nation’s largest Spanish restaurant and Florida’s oldest.

Adela’s affair with food is a family legacy that began more than 90 years ago, when her beloved grandfather Casimiro emigrated from Cuba to Tampa, then a little town on Florida’s west coast. There, amid scrub palmettos and rattlesnakes, an enclave of Cubans, Spaniards, and Italians worked in the growing cigar industry in a neighborhood known as Ybor City.

Casimiro Hernandez found work, saved his money, and in 1905 purchased a bar, where he started selling soup, sandwiches, and coffee. Out of gratitude to his new country, he named his small cafe the Columbia, after the personification of America in the popular song “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean.” Prophetically, he added this motto to his sign: “The Gem of All Spanish Restaurants.”

This book is both a history of the elegant family restaurant, which now boasts six locations in Florida, and a cookbook of 178 recipes that make them famous. It is also the biography of Adela, the heart of the Columbia, with commentary by Ferdie Pacheco, television’s “fight doctor,” Ybor City’s famous raconteur, and Adela’s neighbor as they grew up together in Ybor City.

    Casimiro became known for dishes that the Columbia still  serves-Spanish bean soup, his lusty creation that combines sausage,  garbanzo beans, and potatoes in a beef stock; arroz con pollo, a classic  chicken and rice dish; an authentic Cuban sandwich; and the 1905 salad,  dressed with the family’s special blend of fresh garlic, oregano, wine  vinegar, lemon juice, and Spanish olive oil.

Pijuan, Casimiro’s fabled chef from the kitchen of King Alfonso XIII of Spain, contributed numerous works of art, such as pompano papillot and steak capuchina. Adela and Ferdie now reveal the best of these recipes and offer many others, giving lovers of good food the opportunity to bring home the aroma, the seasonings, and glamour of the Columbia, gem of all Spanish restaurants.



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