A bowl of flaming rice. A pork chop big enough to feed a family. More than fifty rums behind the bar. And a celebrity chef running the kitchen. At La Fabrica Central, the flavors are bold, the atmosphere is beautiful, and the party is always on.
Located in Central Square Cambridge, La Fabrica is the newest restaurant from Hector and Nivia Pina. This husband and wife team already own three restaurants in Boston: Merengue, where they serve Dominican food, Vejigantes, specializing in Puerto Rican fare, and Doña Habana, offering up Cuban cuisine. But here at La Fabrica, all of those flavors are all under one roof.
Nivia Pina – Owner, La Fabrica Central: “What we wanted to do in this restaurant is to embrace all the Caribbean islands. We wanted to have a little bit of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, but as well as some other places from the Caribbean like Jamaica. So we wanted to incorporate all the flavors that we all share, and actually celebrate the culture in the Caribbean and the cuisine as well.”
When it came time to find a chef to cook all those Caribbean dishes, Nivia actually turned to her television. Giovanna Huyke is known as the Julia Child of Puerto Rico, where she cooked on television for decades, demonstrating recipes that made making dinner a little bit easier.
Giovanna Huyke – Executive Chef, La Fabrica Central: “I started really cooking for home cooks, and they would be out of the kitchen in 35 minutes. And that was before the Food Channel existed.”
Nivia Pina – Owner, La Fabrica Central: “Our chef is someone that I grew up watching, and I remember watching her at lunch, and my mom writing her recipes, so for me it was very special when I finally got to meet her because in Puerto Rico, she is a legacy, and I love to bring her here, and anyone who is around my generation is like, ‘oh wow, Giovanna is here at La Fabrica.'”
Of course customers come to La Fabrica for the food, but the first thing they notice here is the atmosphere. There’s live music and long bar as soon as you walk in, and a dining room designed to make you feel like you’re sitting in a sugar cane field, complete with sugar plants and giant pictures depicting how those sweet stalks are turned into rum.
Nivia Pina – Owner, La Fabrica Central: “If you look at the murals, they start in the field, people picking the sugar cane, and then the transfer to the distillery, all the way to the barrels, and then the final product is at your table.”
And those beautiful pictures were taken by Hector himself.
Hector Pina – Owner, La Fabrica Central: “I took the pictures, that’s my hobby, and I took a trip to the Dominican Republic and I had a lot of fun taking those pictures.”
Your fun here should start with a glass of rum, followed by some of La Fabrica’s temping appetizers, like Empanadas stuffed with everything from shredded chicken, to grilled skirt steak, to all the ingredients of a classic Cubano.
Giovanna Huyke – Executive Chef, La Fabrica Central: “It’s a Cuban sandwich inside an empanada, which is wonderful because the heat kind of melts the Swiss cheese, so the pickle is just right there at the perfect temperature. When you get a bite it’s just like having a Cuban sandwich.”
Another app you can’t miss is the Melted Gouda with shredded chicken.
Giovanna Huyke – Executive Chef, La Fabrica Central: “We melt it right to perfection and then we use flame on top of it so when it gets to the table it’s completely coated and brown and then when you eat it it’s just like gooey cheese, and perfect chicken stew made the Caribbean way.”
Entrees at La Fabrica are awesome. Seafood fans could choose the lobster tail bathed in rum sauce and served atop a mashed yucca patty, or the whole red snapped topped with coconut sauce. But for a fiery feast you absolutely need to experience, order the Arroz con Mariscos, a bowl of seafood studded rice that’s set ablaze at your table.
Giovanna Huyke – Executive Chef, La Fabrica Central: “We start cooking all the seafood at the same time with butter and a little bit of sofrito, then we add a little bit of rum, so it gives it a little bit of umph, and then is when we add the rice, sweet peas, roasted peppers, we mix it all and we serve it, and at the table, they’ll give you just a little bit of flame with that rum just to higher up all those flavors.”
Meat eaters have plenty of options as well, from a Rib Eye with garlic and cilantro butter, to a Burger stacked with ripe plantain. For something spicy, try the Jerk Chicken, brined for 48 hours, and for something absolutely over the top in size, flavor, and texture, check out the two-and-a-half pound Puerto Rican style pork chop.
Nivia Pina – Owner, La Fabrica Central: “You get the pork chop itself, which is the juicy meat, but then attached to it, it’s also the belly, which is the fatty part, and people love that because it’s a combination of crunchiness, fatty, and meat.”
If you have any room for dessert, sweet choices include moist Tres Leches cake, a warm Guava Almond Tart, Dulce de Leche Mousse with spicy chocolate sauce, and Flan that’s impossibly creamy.
Giovanna Huyke – Executive Chef, La Fabrica Central: “Flan should really stay in your mouth for a little while, that’s how creamy it is. You should really eat it very very slowly, though I have friends that eat it in two seconds.”
And for this celebrity chef, the real star of the show La Fabrica are the ingredients she uses to share her passion for Caribbean cooking with her customers.
Giovanna Huyke – Executive Chef, La Fabrica Central: “I love when I get an ingredient and all the possibilities of what I can do with it. It’s just getting those ingredients into a pot and then serving it to people that are going to enjoy it, that’s why I wake up every morning and come to this kitchen happy to cook.”
La Fabrica Central
450 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139