Tampa’s rich immigrant history becomes tangible and delicious inside the many bakeries around town. Cuban, Italian and other Latin American treats are often tucked away in unassuming shops, their breads, pastries and cookies displayed behind glass cases. Here's the inside scoop on some of the best bakeries in Tampa.
When Cuban immigrants rolled cigars in Ybor City, Cuban bread was a staple of their daily diet. Tampa’s version was made a little denser and heartier than Miami’s, and it’s still made daily at several outposts in Tampa. Its crunchy outer crust and warm, soft centre can’t be beaten, and Tampa’s visitors can get it straight from the source.
La Segunda Central Bakery claims the honour of being the city's oldest Cuban bread company, having officially opened in 1915. Today, La Segunda produces approximately 12,000 loaves each day.
La Segunda Central Bakery: 2512 N 15th St. Tampa Bay
At Mauricio Faedo's Bakery, bakers work methodically, kneading the dough and pulling it into long shapes. Each one gets a thin strip of palmetto frond placed on top, which helps split the bread down the top. Visitors at the shop can watch their quick precision, honed by practice.
Mauricio Faedo's Bakery: 5150 N Florida Ave. Tampa Bay
Each bakery also serves flaky guava pastries filled with a tangy guava paste – as delicious as they are messy.
For all things Italian, head to Tampa icon Alessi Bakery, which recently celebrated its 100-year anniversary. Try the cannoli, tiny Italian wedding cookies and the black-and-white cookies, which are so fluffy they taste like a cross between cake and cookie.
Nicolo Alessi opened Alessi Bakery in 1912, and the bakery quickly became known for its elaborately decorated cakes. Today, customers visiting Alessi can watch decorators put the final touches on wedding cakes. Also try the scachatta, which means, "smashed bread" in Italian. In Sicily, this dish was traditionally made from leftover dough and ingredients from the day's pizza. It’s eaten cold and makes for a delicious lunch.
Alessi Bakery: 2209 W Cypress St. Tampa Bay
At Mi Pueblito, glass cases hold delicious Columbian treats, including the dense, buttery pandebono and flaky croissants, which come either plain or filled with ham and cheese. Workers at the shop warm the savoury treats before serving them. Add a heavy-on-the-milk café con leche.
Mi Pueblito: 5802 N Armenia Ave. Tampa Bay
Just up the road, La Montaña Bakery is a colourful, family-owned Columbian bakery, wedged between a Latino supermarket and an Asian grocery. Visitors come here for the typical cheesy Colombian treats, which the shop’s owners are up making well before dawn. Try the crispier, spherical version of the pandebono and order some juice at the counter.
La Montaña Bakery: 8206 N Armenia Ave. Tampa Bay
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Have you visited any of these Tampa bakeries? Which would you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Written by Jessica Vander Velde
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About the author: JessicaVeldeJessica Vander Velde
Jessica Vander Velde is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s largest newspaper. She also blogs about craft beer at Pint-Press.com