On a cloudless day you can see North Africa from Sicily where the arid landscape is filled with paddle-shaped cactus and seems more Maghreb than Italian. A big flowering cacti is potted in an enormous clay vessel on the patio at Sciuri Bakery Café. Pronounced “shuri” and meaning “flower” the cafe anchors a small strip mall on Miami Beach and specializes in Sicilian sweets. Glass cases in the white-on-white space are filled with cakes, pastries, eclair-shaped mousse, tarts, cookies and other confections. Jars of candied almonds in flavors like pear, orange and anise are on top of the counter. There are also two crowned ceramic heads known as Mori, a style used as planters placed on gateposts.
Start With These Dishes
Try the arancini or stuffed rice balls coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried. The name in Sicilian means “little orange” as they become burnished gold after emerging from the boiling oil and taste like fried risotto. Fillings include eggplant, ham and cheese, spinach and ricotta and ragu (tomato sauce with ground beef and peas). Or get a half-moon-shaped fried calzone pastry with ham and cheese. There’s also spinach and cheese lasagna sold in thick squares. Other days there might be cheese and bechamel or ragu lasagna. If you need a bite to go, try the ham and cheese croissant or a sandwich on a crusty roll with ham, prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula.
Cakes are sold both whole and individually-sized. The most famous Sicilian sweet is cassata, a non-baked “cake” that originated in Palmero, the capital of Sicily. It consists of a round sponge cake layered with sheep’s milk ricotta sweetened with powdered sugar. The dessert is always edged with green pistachio marzipan and decorated with candied fruit and citron peels.
Other desserts here include mimosa, a vanilla sponge cake with pastry cream and pineapple. The Cubana chocolate sponge cake is made with Chantilly cream and rum. The fruit tarts are filled with pastry cream and topped with glazed strawberries, kiwi, pineapple and berries. The Sciuri is a chocolate sponge cake with pistachio cream and sliced almonds. Large or mini cannoli pastry tubes are stuffed with sweet creamy ricotta dipped at each end in crushed pistachios.
What makes It Special
Owner Alessandro Buono always dreamed of running a place like the famous Angora pastry shop where he ate growing up in Agrigento in south-central Sicily. He followed his mother Ylenia Lacono to Miami Beach last year after she opened a spa. His pastry chef is Alessandro Arcoraci who he convinced to leave Sicily to work here. The chef started as an apprentice at a bakery when 12 years-old, then worked in Milan and Turin, perfecting his pastry art. The bakery-cafe opened four months ago. Everything here is made from scratch with ingredients imported from Sicily so the taste is as authentic as a trip to Palmero.
If you go
Place: Sciuri Bakery Café
Address: 541 Jefferson Avenue, Miami Beach
Hours: 7 a.m.-7:30 p.m. daily
Prices: Whole cakes $30-$35, small tarts/cakes $6, cannoli $2-$5, sandwiches $4-$7