This new bakery is already buzzing with popularity, and for good reason
As Chef Sam Carrasquero-Chappelle pulls out a 10kg bucket of Dulce de Leche from behind the counter of his new bakery and bistro, the words adorning the container all in Spanish, I know he means business when it comes to authenticity. When you acquired an importing license, so that you can get the best quality ingredients straight from overseas, you're serious about quality.
Sam's bakery and bistro is inspired by innovation, diversity, and artisanal handmade products. After moving to Charlotte, NC in 2020, he quickly discovered there was a need for pastries made correctly with authentic ingredients. So he sought to open his own bakery Vicente.
"You'd be shocked to know how much places around Charlotte are charging for croissants from Sysco," says Sam. If you aren't familiar, Sysco Foods is the world's largest food distributor. Many restaurants and establishments buy, use, and then sell or serve their food products.
You won't find anything like that pre-made at Vicente, something Sam is very passionate about. From dough to pastry fillings, in-house is the method. Of course, items like the Dulce de Leche, Monin Blue Curacao syrup, and hazelnut syrup aren't made in-house. The menu features a large assortment of baked goods and viennoiserie, which is known as the "bridge" between pâtisserie and bread -- so think brioche and croissants. Viennoiserie is French for “things from Vienna” and describes an entire category of pastry. And this category is just one that Sam does extremely well. His croissants are perfectly flaky, buttery (made with French butter), soft, and so decadently airy that they practically melt in your mouth. His industrial dough sheeter helps him create flawless laminated doughs (this refers to the culinary preparation consisting of many thin layers of dough separated by layers butter, which has been folded and rolled repeatedly).
The bakery opened just the other week in South End with a menu consisting of drinks, baked goods, and breakfast sandwiches. With a nod to Argentina, it's named after Vicente López St in Buenos Aires where Sam lived for some years; and while the menu is globally inspired, it's heavily influenced by Latin America.
Sam cares not only about quality, but also about presentation. He carefully thought out every detail of the menu and the space, down to the larger pastry boxes with windowpanes into what lies inside. Given that this bakery and bistro is supposed to be more of a grab-and-go concept than a stay-and-lounge type of atmosphere, the attention to the boxes makes sense.
Outside of the pastry case, there is a small set of shelves that features select products to purchase from places such as Venezuela, Italy, and China that Sam has hand selected. A true celebration of global fare!
The people behind the counter matter to Sam too. Working in different parts of the industry, he's witenessed first-hand what it feels and looks like when a company/restaurant owner doesn't care about its employees. The environment and career he provides his employees is just as important as what he provides on the menu for his customers.
A graduate of Napa Valley's Culinary Institute of America, Sam has always loved to bake. In Napa, he worked in everything from bakeries, wineries, and boutique hotels. After spending his culinary internship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sam was drawn back post-graduation to work in Mendoza, Argentina's renowned wine region. He helped open a Pan-American cafe in Buenos Aires' Belgrano neighborhood, next to Chinatown, before moving to Charlotte with his husband Yerman.
Vicente is truly a celebration of quality, care, and culture. And one of my go-to spots for breakfast or a treat now!