Xiomara Aguilera can’t help but laugh while describing how she met the love of her life.
“The first thing I asked him was: ‘Do you cook? Because if you don’t, you’re disqualified,’” she says.
Luckily, he did. And Eddy Tapia’s intentions were far greater than she expected. Not only was he a great cook, but he was the missing piece she had been looking for.
“It was love at first sight,” says Aguilera.
Aguilera had been working as a baker for the past 25 years in West Palm, but she didn’t want to work at a supermarket forever. Eddy worked in construction since moving to the city in 2008, something he did make a living, not something he wanted to do. When they met in 2010, everything came together.
“We unified our ideas and we were able to open something we both love,” says Eddy.
The Cuban lovebirds — Xiomara from Las Tunas and Eddy from Pinar del Rio — opened their Cuban pizzeria and bakery in West Palm Beach in August. They called it “Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery.”
Aguilera admits that she never liked cooking, hence why she wanted a man who cooks. Her passion is making desserts, namely Cuban pastries and the undeniably-sweet café cubano, something she offers with a smile to every customer who walks in because “that’s just Cuban courtesy.”
Tapia, who’s a bit more timid, has always loved making Cuban pizza for his family. Now, he’s the guy in the back of the kitchen making the seasoned-magic happen for an entire community.
“You must try it,” says Tapia confidently.
That’s exactly how Tapia answered when asked, “What the heck is a Cuban Pizza?”
It goes like this: He makes sure the dough it just right. He says it’s a thicker bread that’s fully cooked, yet it’s chewier and fluffier than a traditional Italian pizza.
“La salsa es divina! (The sauce is divine),” says Aguilera.
Any Italian would tell you that the secret in a great pizza is the sauce. This Cuban twist is no exception. Tapia says the sauce is still tomato-based, but it has all kinds of Cuban seasonings that make it a lot more flavorful. He guarantees you’ll love it. But, like most true chefs, he won’t share more of the secret.
“It’s a recipe we both created. It is intimate,” says the Cuban gentleman.
Any guy that abides by the “don’t-kiss-and-tell” rule must be a keeper.
Both Tapia and Aguilera spent the past year perfecting the taste that would get people coming for more. In December 2015, Tapia traveled to all parts of Cuba to sample native pizzas, different tomatoes, spices and learn different cooking methods. It was Aguilera who would sit at the table and try all of his sauces.
“She is the tasting queen. She hates the kitchen, but loves to eat,” jokes Eddy while serving a Cuban espresso. A few months ago, they locked down a recipe they both love.
The toppings on these pizzas are both Cuban and traditional. You can choose from regular ham, pineapple or pepperoni to more Cuban ingredients such as chorizo, lechon asado (roast pork) or even guayaba con queso (guava with cheese.)
“We have a good balance,” says Aguilera. “He cooks and I make desserts.”
What: “Mi Isla—Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery”
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wonder where Mi Isla would rank in our Readers’ Choice for Best Pizza?