Cienfuegos is awesome in general but you should go for Villa Lagarto's plantain chips no matter what. Can't go? Here's the recipe from my book.
plantain chips
Villa Lagarto plantains. Photo: Cynthia Carris Alonso

Note from El Equipo: If you’re here to grab the Villa Lagarto (paladar in Cienfuegos) green plantain chips recipe (do it, do it, do it) from author Cynthia Carris Alonso’s book, scroll down. It’s at the bottom.

Many of you have visited Havana. Yet, about 140 miles southeast of Havana, is another historic, interesting, and charming city: Cienfuegos. There is a mix of Taino, Spanish, and French influences in both the architecture and the food in this city, founded in 1819. Christopher Columbus referred to Cienfuegos as the “Pearl of the South,” for the beauty of its bay, and the city was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2005. Cienfuegos has a main plaza surrounded by important buildings for governing, worship, culture, and education. Centrally-located shops are  interspersed with street vendors under beautiful large trees that sway gracefully from winds off the nearby sea. 

The colorful and well-preserved facades of Cienfuegos’s structures give the city a calming and whimsical character, which is also very present at the Villa Lagarto (lizard) inn and paladar. Located at the end of the long malecón, by the bay, Villa Lagarto has a pretty view of the water and a refreshing breeze. This oasis for dining and tranquility is run by May Cruz and her husband, Antonio Lleonart. Its long, lush entryway is decorated with typical Cuban wooden rocking chairs, a decorative pool, polished wooden bridge, and a large ceramic alligator with water streaming from its mouth into the pool, as well as smaller, colorful ceramic statues of criollo Cuban women, and a tower of tropical fruits which they generously offer visitors for free.

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Antonio Lleonart and May Cruz stand in their paladar, Villa Lagarto, in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Photo: Cynthia Carris Alonso

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, both the paladar and the inn at Villa Lagarto are closed right now. However, May Cruz assures me that they plan to open again as soon as possible! In the meantime, May and her husband are selling food and coffee grown on their cooperative farm near the nature reserve park, Topes de Collante, where they grow organic foods such as yucca, guava, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, plantains, and more. They must sell 20% of their produce and 80% of their coffee to the government; they can sell the rest of the bounty privately or enjoy the delicious food with friends and family.

Christopher Columbus referred to Cienfuegos as the “Pearl of the South,” for the beauty of its bay, and the city was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 2005.

Since it is still not easy to travel to Cuba due to U.S. policies, COVID-19 health risks, and travel restrictions, it is my pleasure to share the classic taste and recipe for Cuban plantain chips with you here, which you can now try to cook in your own kitchens! 

cienfuegos cuba
Cienfuegos, Cuba. Photo: Cynthia Carris Alonso

Green Plantain Chips (Mariquitas de Plátanos Verdes)

1 Green plantain, peeled
Vegetable oil
Salt, to taste

With a mandoline or a very sharp knife, slice the plantains thinly on the diagonal to no more than 1/16 inch thick and 2 inches long. 

Related Post: Chef David Aloma Aguíla Shares 2 Recipes From Paladar Davimart in Trinidad

Heat 4 inches of vegetable oil in a deep large saucepan to 350℉. Add the plantain slices and deep fry until crispy, about 3 minutes. Remove the plantains from the oil with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel to dry. Season with salt.

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Villa Lagarto in Cienfuegos, Cuba Photo by Cynthia Carris Alonso

Related Post: Recipe of the Month: Al Carbón’s Arroz Con Pollo

villa lagarto
Paladar Villa Lagarto, in Cienfuegos, Cuba. Photo: Cynthia Carris Alonso

Villa Lagarto
Calle 35, No. 4B
La Punta, Punta Gorda

Cynthia Carris Alonso is the author of A Taste of Cuba: A Journey Through Cuba and Its Savory Cuisine (Apollo Publishers, 2018), and a book of photography, Passage to Cuba, an Up-Close Look at the World’s Most Colorful Culture (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015).

cienfuegos cuba
Cienfuegos Cuba
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Watch Startup Cuba video replays here on YouTube.
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Check out the author’s book on Amazon here.

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Cynthia Carris Alonso is the author of two books about Cuba and has been photographing the island since 1992. She is a photographer, photo editor, and researcher and has worked for internationally-renowned magazines, books, and websites such as,, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, The New York Times, Rhythm Music Magazine, People en Español, Scholastic and Vanity Fair. In 2016, Cynthia Carris Alonso covered President Obama's historic visit to Cuba, as the two countries continued working toward normalizing relations. With rare access to Cuba, Alonso has photographed Cuba's most famous musicians, covered news events and daily life of the Cuban people on assignment, and documented their unique and mysterious culture, people, passions and spirit of survival. Cynthia’s first photography book, Passage to Cuba, was published by Skyhorse Publishing in 2015. Her latest book, A Taste of Cuba (Apollo Publishers, 2018), celebrates the wonderful taste of Cuban cuisine, as well as the sites, colors, and energy of the Cuban culture. Alonso has given speeches about photography, journalism and Cuba. She has appeared on television and in the press, as a Cuba consultant giving interviews in both English and Spanish. Cynthia is married to Cuban writer José Luis Alonso, and they live in New York City with their daughter.

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