As a young man, Giuseppe R. Ferlita dreamed of immigrating to America and becoming successful. In 1905, Giuseppe, with only a third-grade education, arrived at Ellis Island as a teenager. Emigrating from Santo Stefano Quisquina, Sicily, with his family, he joined relatives who had previously settled in Tampa. Giuseppe first worked as a cigar maker until his father purchased a bakery in West Tampa. During this period, he married his childhood sweetheart, Maria Paola Ficarrotta.
Sometimes, you can smell bread baking. Long ago, when the streets of Ybor City bustled, and Cuban, Italian, and Spanish immigrants filled Ybor City’s wood-framed front porches, the Ferlita Bakery baked 35,000 loaves of Cuban bread weekly, delivering what has become Tampa’s signature bread to homes throughout the neighborhood. Today, Florida State Park ranger Alex Kinder pours ready-made bread mixes into an electric bread maker to fill the historic building with the smell of baking bread. The sweet aroma takes visitors to the Ybor City State Park back in time.
Olives have been around for thousands of years. If you are a fan of these tiny green fruits, you may not know that some of Spain’s best olives were bottled in Tampa!
On any given day, you could find him riding his small scooter up and down the streets of Ybor City. You could not resist his deviled crabs–they were the best!
As a boy growing up in Tampa, Al Perez enjoyed some of the best empanadas he’d ever tasted. A street vendor sold crab and beef turnovers on Saturdays, and Perez never missed a chance to buy one. What could be better than picadillo or crab enchilada folded into the flaky fried dough? Memories of that taste, smell, and texture stood sharply in his memory. Later in life, he became obsessed with recreating those tender, savory turnovers. The empanadas Perez loves so much have a long history.