TAMPA, Fl. - Is there anything better than the smell of bread baking? Imagine the aroma at La Segunda Central Bakery, where authentic Cuban bread is plumping up in the ovens around the clock. This is the real deal.
For nearly a century, La Segunda has been baking up a Tampa tradition – the perfect loaf of Cuban bread. Lots of them, actually. More than 12,000 a day! Each and every loaf is handmade. For four generations, the More’ family has been turning out this signature creation, not just for notable places like the famed Columbia Restaurant, but also to be shipped around the country.
Tony More’ uses the same recipe his grandfather brought from a small Cuban town near the turn of the century. Tony is understandably proud.
“I’ve been to a lot of places, eaten a lot of bread and never found anything that tastes quite like this,” said More’.
He now runs the family bakery with the help of his son and a dedicated staff. To turn out that much bread each day is takes a twenty-four hour commitment, from the mixing of the special recipe in giant vats, to the rolling out of the dough. And no true authentic Tampa Cuban loaf would be complete without the signature palmetto leaf.
“We hire people to go out in the woods and get them,’ said More’. “ They cut them and slice them into small pieces. When it goes on the bread and sticks to it, it makes a weak spot. So that when it actually goes in the oven, the bread is going to break along where the Palmetto leaf is.”
The palmetto leaf gives the bread its uniform shape. Without it, the bread would be twisted or break unevenly. The end result is a flakey, crunchy texture on the outside and a soft interior which customers say ‘melts in their mouths.’ To read more about the historic La Segunda Central Bakery in Tampa, go to www.lasegundabakery.com.
If a great loaf of Cuban bread has whetted your appetite for a little more Ybor history, head a few blocks over to the Ybor City Museum State Park on 19th street. Here you’ll find a small museum, a lovely Mediterranean-style garden, and several cottages or ‘casitas,’ where some cigar workers’ families lived near the turn of the century.
The museum houses some fascinating details about how Ybor was founded, and even about the social habits of those who made up this unique community. Here you can have a look at how the old cigar factories were laid out. It’s hard to believe, but in their heyday, the cigar factories in Ybor City produced 500 million cigars every year! For more details about the museum, go to www.ybormuseum.org.