By: Tim Aten
(Naples Daily News)
Nearly every culture and nationality has its version of a turnover or a “hot pocket,” so to speak. The pastry pillows are filled with meat, cheese, fruits or vegetables to create Italian calzone, Polish pierogi, Jamaican beef patties, Asian wonton, German strudel and Cornish pasties.
Latin America’s version of the turnover is an empanada, a crimped pie that is shaped like a half moon and features a variety of fillings. Peruvian empanadas are not only unique from “hot pockets” found in other cultures, but they are slightly different than empanadas found elsewhere in Latin America, said Gonzalo Torres, owner of Gustito’s Bakery-Peruvian Cafe in Bed Bath & Beyond Plaza in North Naples.
“It’s quite a little bit different because our empanadas are flaky. It’s a flaky dough and it’s a little bit sweet. One of the big differences about our empanadas is that it’s baked, so it really makes a difference when you taste it with the savory and sweet. The aftertaste is just delicious.”
Outside of Peru and Argentina, most empanadas are fried, but Peruvian empanadas are set apart by a finishing dust of powdered sugar, even on savory varieties packed with ground beef, chicken, spinach or artichokes. At the table, the empanadas are served with fresh lime wedges and a yellow pepper sauce called aji amarillo, flavorful condiments that take the entrée to a new taste level.
Gustito’s empanadas have been a success from the onset because they have focused on the preparation of a smaller catering size. The local bakery prepares thousands of empanadas daily to serve at least a dozen hotels and more than 20 restaurants in South Florida. They even sell them frozen so that patrons can make them at home anytime.
In addition to empanadas, the local business makes Peruvian artisan breads, sandwiches, desserts, and a variety of breakfast and lunch options and baked goods. The bakery also specializes in cakes for weddings and other occasions, as well as catering.
Gustito’s Bakery, which opened in Naples in 2012, is backed by a rich heritage. Oscar Torres, Gonzalo’s father, started the family’s bakery business 30 years ago in Peru, south of Lima.
“We decided to come to the U.S. and just follow our dream and make it happen,” Gonzalo Torres said.
Gustitos, 5417 Airport-Pulling Road, is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 239-254-8115 or go to gustitosbakery.com.