The search for authenticity in ethnic food can be a dead end.
Case in point: the Cubano sandwich at La Flor Bakery. This Puerto Rican bakery and restaurant serves a Caribbean sandwich that strays from the classic Miami Cubano in a couple of ways, but it’s an outstanding sandwich that can serve as lunch for two people who are open-minded about their Cubano composition.
The $9 sandwich starts with bread baked in house. There are two kinds to choose from, explained owner Enrique Sexto. Pan sabao is a slightly sweet bread that’s denser than the more standard loaf, called pan de agua.
Choose one, and a fresh loaf is split open and layered with fillings including roast pork, ham and salami. The Miami-style Cuban is pork, ham, pickles, Swiss cheese and mustard, but the salami, as used at La Flor, adds a garlicky bite.
The standard also includes lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, but Sexto will adjust the fillings to customer specifications. The sandwich is toasted in a grill press to make the top and bottom even crustier. The fresh bread molds well to the filling; sabao adds a note of richness, but the standard de agua does an admirable job of letting the fillings do the talking.
One addition that the adventurous may consider is a strip of pork crackling from the pork shoulders that have been roasted and waiting in the steam table to be dished up with rice. It adds a meaty crunch to a sandwich that is already a handful.
“There’s a whole bunch of Cuban ways to make it,” Sexto explained. After you sample his work, you might agree that authenticity isn’t everything.
Info: LaFlor Bakery, 544 Niagara St. (931-5401)