On this week's episode of "What's Eric Eating," Antonio Rios and chef Diego Chiarello join CultureMap food editor Eric Sandler to discuss La Sicilia Italian Bakery & Cafe. The married couple open their business in 2018. Since then, Chiarello has earned wide acclaim for his decadent pastries and other sweet treats.
After describing the circumstances the led them to leave New York for Houston, the conversation turns to La Sicilia's place in Houston's culinary scene. Sandler notes that Italian bakeries are relatively rare in Houston and asks if it took awhile for diners to understand the concept. Rios explains that Chiarello focuses on making desserts that are true to his Sicilian roots, knowing "the love he puts into his food" would ultimately speak for itself.
"Everything we make is not every single thing Italian," Chiarello adds. "My style is making fusion. I like to use the Italian flavors with Asian pastries or it can be a Latin taste, the Mexican where I made concha croissant. We have guava crunch, which is a mix between Italian and Spanish. I like to make fun stuff, but I always have the Italian flavor in it."
The conversation concludes with a discussion about how the bakery has responded to the challenges of operating during the pandemic along with their plans to grow over time.
Prior to the interview, Sandler discusses the news of the week. His topics include: chef Chris Williams' forming Lucille's Hospitality Group and partnering with chef Dawn Burrell to open a new restaurant called Late August; the Littlefoot pop-up that will occupy the Theodore Rex space until May; and the timeline for Luby's winding down its culinary operations.
In the restaurants of the week segment, Sandler shares thoughts about his recent meal at Toukei Izakaya. He found chef Mike Tran's Japanese pub in fine form, with raw dishes, skewers, and fried items that delivered bold flavors.