Sarasota’s Ôpera Bakery Bistrôt doesn’t open until 7:30 a.m., but by then owner David Cherki has already been there for hours, baking loaves of bread and croissants and other delicacies to prepare for the day. Morning rush of people who want (or need) their French fix.
Originally from Toulouse, a city in southwestern France, Cherki opened L’Ôpera in April 2019 after moving from Atlanta to Sarasota. “I wanted to close one chapter of my life and open another,” he says. Why Sarasota? For the same reason that so many people move here: the weather.
Cherki prepares a wonderful selection of pastries: toasted almond puff croissants ($ 4.30); stunning pepitos sprinkled with chocolate chips ($ 3.80); flat and spiral cinnamon rolls ($ 3.50); and kouign-amanns ($ 4.95), which Cherki calls her boutique’s signature item.
A kouign-amann, which was created in Brittany in western France, is shaped like a cupcake, but the inside is airy and light, similar to the layered texture of a croissant. In 2011, The New York Times quoted a young Frenchman describing kouign-aman as “the fattyest pastry in all of Europe”. Do I have to say more?
Following the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, Cherki installed plastic dividers suspended between tables in her space. In addition to selling take-out baked goods, L’Ôpera has a restaurant menu that includes breakfast and lunch options like omelets, salads, sandwiches, and more. Cherki makes something called a fougasse ($ 10.90 – $ 12.90), which he describes as a pizza. It’s a wide, flat bread that can be flavored with different types of cheese and toppings, an intriguing creation.
L’Ôpera also sells a variety of desserts (try a mini-Paris-Brest, $ 2.90) and fresh breads. Cherki’s wand ($ 3.20) has a crackling exterior that gives way to a soft center pierced with air holes, while her sourdough ($ 5.15) is tangy and sublime. Both are delicious with just a coating of butter and a little fancy salt, or as a setting for a satisfying sandwich.
Whatever you do, L’Ôpera will improve your morning. Make sure to say thank you to Cherki for waking up so early.
The Opera Bakery Bistrôt is located at 2336 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota, and is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call (941) 922-2253 or visit the restaurant’s website.