Juan DeSosa sat at a window table inside the Market Off Main and watched quietly as his wife and the market's employees dished out bowls of garbanzo soup and pressed Cuban sandwiches, both made from his grandmother's recipes.
DeSosa, now 87, has partnered with the Market Off Main to serve up authentic Cuban cuisine. Feb. 15 was the first day that patrons could order off the expanded menu.
Market Off Main has already added three employees to manage the bigger menu and extended hours. The market will now be open until 8 p.m., and plans to hire at least three more.
Co-owner Jerry Kuss, who said he's known DeSosa "forever," has been enjoying Juan's cooking since its original deli location. The building was small, Kuss said, and patrons sought shade and company under the big oak tree on the property while they ate.
The original Juan's Black Bean Deli was demolished after developers bought the riverfront property for the Main Street Landing project. Later, DeSosa opened a new location on the south side of Main Street, space now occupied by Estela's.
He retired almost two years ago, but was eager for his legacy to continue. That's where the partnership with the market comes into play.
After his cantina on Main Street closed, DeSosa "became a frequent visitor to the market," Kuss said. "We kept telling him there was no good place locally to get Cuban food and asked if he was willing to resume some of his recipes here and help train people to cook it his way."
DeSosa's wife, Sandy, helped market employees slice meat for Cuban sandwiches to the right consistency and showed them the right way to slice the bread. The couple celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary on Feb. 14, the day before the market started serving DeSosa's food.
"Without her, I would have never done nothing," DeSosa said. His wife smiled back at him.
Cuba-born DeSosa, a former schoolmate of Fidel Castro, doesn't like to talk about himself. Ask and he'll direct your questions to one of the market's owners or tell you to look up newspaper archives on the Internet.
He did have this to say: "I'm having my legacy keep going here. I am very thankful to this country where I came with nothing and I made myself. I can be part of what they call American Dream. I came to this country with five dollars, a shirt and pair of pants. I didn't even know English. This is the American Dream."
DeSosa enjoys the family-friendly atmosphere the market has to offer its customers. The owners and waiters greet patrons by name and take the time to chat with them. It reminds him of his deli days on the river.
Little by little, DeSosa will be relinquishing recipes to Kuss and the market's other co-owners, Rose Mohr and Patty Leouc. He has them committed to memory and feels comfortable passing them along to a local business that cares about a community he's been a part of since 1969.
"We are here to service our customers," DeSosa said. "We are waiting for them to give us their ideas for what they feel and like. We want people to feel that they are home."
Customers filed in, excited to taste DeSosa's cantina food again. The market saw many new faces who'd heard the news of DeSosa's return. They'd be back.
Angel Nally, a New Port Richey resident, admired the pressed Cuban sandwich on her plate.
"If it's as good as it was years ago, I'm sure I'll love it," Nally said, before taking a bite. "I think it's wonderful. It's delicious. It's wonderfully delicious."
DeSosa walked around occasionally with the help of a cane and talked to customers. He beamed with pride and smiled as he watched customers take their first bite of his Cuban food.
"I'm very happy," DeSosa said. "That's all that I wanted; my name to continue. I found the right place and it is done."
For more information, visit www.marketoffmain .com or call (727) 849-4940. The market is at 6241 Lincoln St., in downtown New Port Richey.