HOUSTON – If Cuban cuisine is on your foodie bucket list, get ready to cross it off. Café Piquet in Bellaire has been a family owned staple in Houston’s culinary scene for years. Co-founder Nelly Piquet shares how she started the restaurant with her late husband, Guido Piquet, and now continues to serve the community with her daughter Cristina Benitez.
“I would say that I’m the owner, but this here is the one who runs the whole thing for me really. She’s my everything, Cristina, my daughter,” says Nelly.
The restaurant went through a few transitions before becoming the beloved eatery it is today. Guido Piquet’s family owned a Cuban marketplace in southwest Houston known as Piquet Market back in the 1970′s. Around 1989, Nelly’s family moved to the Houston area. She soon crossed paths with Guido, and the two started on their journey from there.
“I fell in love with that man. He’s been gone now over 15 years, but he was amazing. My family loved him. Everybody loved Guido Piquet,” said Nelly.
The couple started out serving food at Guido’s family’s market, but quickly realized they needed a space of their own.
“We started out at Rampart [and Bissonnet]. It was a hole in the wall, and we were so scared to death because we didn’t have any money,” said Nelly.
But the young couple continued to build a reputation within the Houston Cuban community, as well as among other food lovers around town. The restaurant relocated again before finally making its home at its current location at 5757 Bissonnet St. in Bellaire, TX.
Benitez stepped up to help her mother run the day-to-day operations, but her love for the restaurant is as evident as her love for her family.
“From time to time somebody will come over, and they’ll say, ‘This reminds me of my grandmother’s Picadillo or Ropa Vieja...The cooking is very similar to my family’s, and it brings me home.’ That is the best compliment we can possibly have, so we love that," said Benitez.
According to Benitez, Cuban culture emphasizes the value of family, food and fun. She explains that many Cuban dishes, including their most popular dish ‘Ropa Vieja’ have comical meanings.
“Ropa Vieja, it’s got a really fun play on words. It’s translated as ‘old clothes,’” said Benitez. “That is very typical Cuban, to have a good time with making jokes about things, and it’s just here again incorporating that culture in our food.”
Both Nelly and Benitez pride themselves on their family business and hope guests feel like they’re dining with them at their own home.
“Feeling like family, feeling like they’re at home...Whether you’re Cuban or whether you’re just wanting to experience our culture, our different food, we welcome you,” said Benitez
Café Piquet is open for limited dine-in service and curbside pick up. The restaurant has a large covered patio, as well as an extended side patio for outdoor dining. To connect with the restaurant, visit the Café Piquet website.