‘What is a Cuban pizza?’ New WPB restaurant answers that question

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.

Related: Readers’ Choice for ‘Best Pizza in PBC’

Eddy Tapia kisses his girlfriend Xiomara Aguilera inside their new Cuban Pizzeria in West Palm Beach. October 2016. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)
Eddy Tapia kisses his girlfriend Xiomara Aguilera inside their new Cuban Pizzeria in West Palm Beach. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

“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.

Eddy Tapia and Xiomara Aguilar working behind the counter at their new Cuban Pizzeria in West Palm Beach. October 2016. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)
Eddy Tapia and Xiomara Aguilar working behind the counter at their new Cuban Pizzeria in West Palm Beach. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

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.”

Xiomara Aguilera, the owner of "Mi Isla Cuban Pizzeria and Bakery" makes the desserts at the restaurant.
Xiomara Aguilera, the owner of “Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery” makes the desserts at the restaurant. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

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.

"Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery" in West Palm Beach
“Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery” in West Palm Beach (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

“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.

Eddy Tapia and Xiomara Aguilera, the owners of "Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery" in West Palm Beach. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)
Eddy Tapia and Xiomara Aguilera, the owners of “Mi Isla Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery” in West Palm Beach. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

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.

A Cuban Pizza made by Eddy Tapia. thicker cuban-style dough, secret-recipe sauce a-la-Cuba, mozzarella cheese, ham and pineapple. October 2016 (Julio Poletti/ the Palm Beach Post)
A Cuban Pizza made by Eddy Tapia. thicker Cuban-style dough, secret-recipe sauce a-la-Cuba, mozzarella cheese, ham and pineapple. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

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.” 

Eddy Tapia makes Cuban Pizzas while Xiomara Aguilera makes the desserts. (Julio Poletti/ the Palm Beach Post)
Eddy Tapia makes Cuban Pizzas while Xiomara Aguilera makes the desserts. (Julio Poletti/ The Palm Beach Post)

The Details:

What: “Mi Isla—Pizzeria Cubana and Bakery”

Where: 1209 S Military Trl., West Palm Beach, FL 33415

Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Phone: 561-310-7286

Wonder where Mi Isla would rank in our Readers’ Choice for Best Pizza?

The buzz about Grato: Pizzeria heats up Flamingo Park

Killer carbonara: Chef Clay Conley at work on plates of buccatini. (LibbyVision.com)
Killer carbonara: Chef Clay Conley at work on plates of buccatini. (LibbyVision.com)

The fab new pizzeria on South Dixie Highway has been packed every night since its debut Jan. 8. At primetime on most nights, the bar three rows deep at Grato, the eatery opened by the powerhouse team behind Palm Beach’s wildly popular Buccan bistro.

“I’m mesmerized by the fire, the scurrying cooks, the bar crowd buzzing,” says cookbook author Judith Olney, who lives within walking distance of the West Palm Beach eatery she describes as “Brooklyn-style, coolest place in the area.”

Word of the opening has spread far and wide, even earning a mention in the Wall Street Journal last week.

Clay Conley, Grato's executive chef and co-owner. (LibbyVision.com)
Clay Conley, Grato’s executive chef and co-owner. (LibbyVision.com)

“It’s been insane. It’s been busier than we thought it was going to be,” says Grato executive chef and co-owner Clay Conley.

Why the buzz? Read the full story on Grato.

Newsroom favorite: this cheese pizza won our downtown taste test. Which is your favorite?

Which cheese pizza scored most votes? (File photo)
Which cheese pizza scored most votes? (Cox Newspapers file photo)

Who knows more about room-temp pizza than journalists on election night? No one. We proudly claim our expertise. We are to pizza what truffle hogs are to ascomycetes.

And because of this, we snag all available opportunities to devour pizza – by the slice, by the pie, or by the stack of boxes. It’s rib-sticking grub, as we were reminded on a recent day when we gathered at one end of the newsroom to taste-test four downtown West Palm Beach cheese pizzas.

We sampled pies from Pizza Girls, City Pizza, Mellow Mushroom and Nico’s Pizza.

In the end, Nico’s scored the highest percentage of our votes (38 percent).

See? None left. (Photo by Laura Lordi)
See? None left. (Photo by Laura Lordi)

The Clematis Street pizzeria delivered with its thin, foldable crust, hearty sauce and cheese and slightly greasy awesomeness.

Second place went to Mellow Mushroom (34 percent). Next was City Pizza of CityPlace (16 percent). Lastly, Pizza Girls fans were saddened to see the waterfront spot earned a paltry 13 percent of our votes.

Leftovers? Not in this newsroom. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)
Leftovers? Not in this newsroom. (Photo by Liz Balmaseda)

Here’s your chance to comment on for your favorite Palm Beach County pizza. Tell us your favorite on our Post on Food & Dining Facebook page.

Next week: vote in our poll (based on your comments) to name the best pizzeria in Palm Beach county.

ReadersChoicePizza2015
Click on the photo to cast your vote!

Critic’s pick: fresh-baked bread and prime pizza in Royal Palm Beach

Margherita pizza at Francesca's Pizza and Wine Bar, Royal Palm Beach. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)
Margherita pizza at Francesca’s, Royal Palm Beach. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

Central-west county pick: FRANCESCA’S

This is the kind of red-sauce place you’d want in your neighborhood.

At Francesca’s Pizza & Restaurant, husband and wife team Danielle Vallone and Tasos Kentimenos bake their bread fresh daily, handcraft the marinara and all the classic dishes. Kentimenos is a master of the pizza crust — he turns out a nicely crisp, but substantial crust.

The eatery offers a nice wine and craft beer menu, ample, fresh salads and tasty appetizers.

Bread is baked fresh daily at Francesca's. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)
Bread is baked fresh daily at Francesca’s. (Damon Higgins/ The Palm Beach Post)

Dining deal: Spend $15 (before tax and tip) at Francesca’s and get a free appetizer plate of mozzarella sticks, fried ravioli, zucchini sticks or garlic bread with cheese. The offer is good until Nov. 30 and cannot be combined with any other discounts.

Francesca’s Pizza & Restaurant: 11452 Okeechobee Blvd., Royal Palm Beach; 561-422-0600

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda