Many Americans know and love Cuban bread. Yet on the west coast of Florida, there is a distinctly different take of this popular bread known as Ybor City bread, named after the neighborhood in Tampa Bay, Florida, and popularized by its distinctive strip of palmetto leaf on top. A palmetto is Florida’s official state tree.
Located just northeast of downtown, Ybor City is the only neighborhood on Florida’s west coast to be designated a National Historic Landmark District. Founded by Vicente Martinez-Ybor, the district has enjoyed a rich and diverse culture for more than a century.
Since 1915, La Segunda Bakery, headquartered in Ybor City, has been baking fresh Cuban bread, pastries, and more.
After years of perfecting and tireless hours of toil, high-quality products are prepared using the same hand-made traditions set forth in the early 1900s. One of the most important time-honored customs is placing a freshly cut palmetto leaf across the top of each loaf to create the signature split down the middle. Only authentic Cuban bread contains the palmetto leaf.
La Segunda is one of the very few bakeries to uphold this labor-intensive tradition.
“We cannot produce enough bread right now for the market,” explains Tony Moré, a third-generation owner of the family business. “There is tremendous demand. We ship all over the United States.”
This craft has withstood the test of time, and discerning palettes — from individually inserting each loaf onto the hearth to retaining the strict structure of our baking shifts. This special combination of skillful, trained employees, high quality ingredients and a passionate heritage is why we continue to create the most authentic Cuban bread in America.
The ingredients are carefully mixed by our veteran master bakers, some of whom have been part of the La Segunda family for more than 20 years.
The dough is shaped into loaves, and workers place a fresh palmetto leaf across the top to hold the moisture in.
The loaves are moved in front of high-powered fans for hardening the exterior thus producing a crusty outside and soft interior.
Each loaf is individually hand-placed into the hearth and left to bake for 45 minutes.
For Moreno Bakery, which is based in Brandon, Florida, this distinctive bread is featured in individual loaves of 24-inch Cuban bread, sold for $3 per loaf.
Here, they follow a five-hour traditional process of crafting Cuban bread, with two stages of rest and rise. The painstaking work does not include the time it takes to harvest and wash the palmetto leaves – by hand – that are individually placed and baked on the upper middle of each loaf, creating a distinctive center.
Also popular are 8-inch hoagie rolls and 8-inch Medianoche, a flavorful bread made into sandwiches that originated in Cuba where they were traditionally served in Havana nightclubs around midnight.
“We sell hundreds of sandwiches every day. We have a whole production team that does nothing but this,” explains Susan Moreno, owner of Moreno Bakery with her husband, Jose. “We sold 948 sandwiches last Saturday. We are our own customer when it comes to making bread.”