Spanish restaurant in Tampa still dances with tradition

 Ybor City’s Spanish and Cuban restaurant, the Columbia, was founded by Casimiro Hernandez Sr. in 1905. The Spanish traditions of the restaurant have been carried through family generations for over 100 years.

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“I enjoy the food here,” said Columbia customer Mark Anthony Puglio. “The food here is excellent. It always has been, since I was young.”

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They continue to serve the original salad that was served the day it was opened – they call it the “1905 Salad.” The dressing is sold in the gift shop along with the popular sangria pitchers.

 

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“They make imported sangria at the restaurant,” said employee, Ana Espinosa. “They do it table-side so the customer will actually see it being made right there next to them.”

Artistic mosaic tiles of rich blues and yellows are seen on walls in every room. In the patio dining room there is a replica of the Pompeii statue called, “Love and the Dolphin.”

This room was purposefully designed to resemble courtyards in the  Andalusia region of Spain.

The restaurant also has a Flamenco dance company called The Columbia Restaurant Dance Troupe. The Flamenco performances are directed by Maria Esparza and hit the stage every night (except Sunday) at 7:30 for a 45-minute show.

Esparza has been dancing for the Columbia for 26 years.

 

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“They’re paying to come see you and it’s very healing,” said Esparza. “You know, just get it all out there. Especially flamenco, it just has so much passion, so much feeling. You’re stomping or you’re playing castanets, you’re doing these turns and it’s a workout.”

Finding male dancers has been tough for Esparza, but she now has at least one male dancer for the troupe. There are 11 dancers in total.

“It’s nice when they’re all up there. It used to, I remember in the old days, they didn’t have a guy in there,” said Puglio. “It was all women. It’s kind of neat to have a guy in there also now.”

Esparza also does other events to get exposure in the Tampa area.

“I always like to do extra shows, you know, convention centers, weddings, corporate parties, private functions, charity events. Things in the Bay area just to give us as much exposure as possible.”

 

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If you would like to attend one of the flamenco performances, there is a $6 cover charge per person and reservations are encouraged.

Other locations of the restaurant are in Sarasota, Riverwalk Tampa, St. Augustine, Clearwater Beach and Celebration near Disney.