Competing Pizzerias on Havana’s Obispo Street

The sweaty waiters at Via Venetto impatiently check their watches, smoking and chatting, hesitantly fearful of the swarming flies. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, June 29, 2023 — No one shows any interest in having lunch at Via Venetto, whose interior is pitch black and flies buzz around the pizzas on display. The restaurant is located on Obispo Street in a downtown area with constant foot traffic that should make it an ideal spot for any food service establishment. The shabby appearance of this formerly state-run operation — it was rented out long ago to private individuals — stands in contrast to the liveliness of its completely privately owned competitor just across the street, which always has a line outside.

Free of Via Venetto’s lineage, the rival pizzeria is bursting with energy. Though also under private management, it is unburdened by any ties to the state. Though tiny and nameless, the place is well-stocked and its prices are reasonable, making it possible to have a good meal here.

A young waiter dispatches customers’ orders with lighting speed. Meanwhile, across the street, the waiters at Via Venetto impatiently check their watches as they stand outside, smoking and chatting, hesitantly fearful of the swarming flies who have come to devour their pizzas.

“They’re like the soles of flip-flops,” observes one of its few customers, eloquently comparing their pizza’s tough dough and scanty cheese with rubber footwear. They are certainly cheaper, he concedes, but anyone who eats there knows what why kind of pizza he is getting: flavorless and low-quality.

A few steps away, the young woman at the modest storefront offers several types of cheese, ham, soft drinks and pizza, which are handed while still warm to customers, who prefer to eat standing up rather than seated in one of Via Venetto’s mortuary-red upholstered chairs. “It’s no secret”, notes another passing observer, frightened just by the sight of the place. “Every private individual who partners with the state ends up like the crab: walking away backwards!”


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