One day, Tom, the photographer for Manhattan Sideways, and I stopped by to say hello to Roz, the dear and wonderful man who owns Lou Lou Buttons. After catching up for a few minutes, he insisted that we accompany him across the street to meet his friends, the owners of the Cuban restaurant that would be opening the following day. We were immediately greeted with hugs and handshakes and, of course, some incredible Cuban food. Roz enthusiastically led me and Tom around the space, including upstairs, proudly pointing out the fantastic artwork displayed on both floors. When we finished our tour, we were introduced to Yussep Garcia, the artist. He told me that he came to this country in 2010 from the Dominican Republic, expecting to be a dishwasher. When he met Abbas, the owner of Havana, he mentioned that he loved to paint. Abbas immediately hired him, not to wash the dishes in his restaurant, but rather to fill his walls with artwork. "He trusted me from day one, " Yussep said in disbelief. In September 2016, Havana moved across the street from its original 1991 location, meaning it now has even more space for Yussep's art. Each painting magnificently depicts the colorful and captivating impressions of Cuban life and its culture. Also gathered in the restaurant the day before the grand opening were Abbas' partners and their chef, Rene Hernandez. After putting on a cooking demonstration for us in the kitchen - during which he prepared a classic chicken dish, pineapple salsa, and other vegetables - Rene sat down to chat. A fascinating man, he informed us that he is originally from Italy, but has cooked in some of the finest restaurants around the world: "I have spent forty-five years in the kitchen with thirty-seven of them being a chef. " He has helped people open restaurants as far away as Russia and Spain. "Now I am looking forward to retirement and settling in Puerto Rico, " the chef confessed. Tom and I would have loved to have spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing with this warm and friendly group, but we needed to move on. Before leaving, however, I had one important question. I had been introduced to people from many different countries - the three owners are from Iran, the chef from Italy, the painter from the DR, etc. - so when I asked the crowd of people gathered, who was from Cuba, they laughed and admitted "no one. " Apparently, Havana NY was opened by a Cuban in 1991, but Abbas purchased the restaurant in 1993, with the promise to keep the Cuban dining experience authentic.