Sarasota's L'Ôpera Bakery Bistrôt doesn't open until 7:30 a.m., but by that point, owner David Cherki has already been there for hours, baking loaves of bread and croissants and other delights to prepare for the morning rush of people who want (or need) their French fix.
Originally from Toulouse, a city in southwest France, Cherki opened L'Ôpera in April 2019 after relocating from Atlanta to Sarasota. "I wanted to close a chapter on my life and open another chapter," he says. Why Sarasota? For the same reason so many move here: the weather.
Cherki bakes up a marvelous selection of pastries: flaky, toasted almond croissants ($4.30); superb pepitos studded with chocolate chips ($3.80); flat, spiraling cinnamon rolls ($3.50); and kouign-amanns ($4.95), which Cherki calls his shop's signature item.
A kouign-amann, which was created in Brittany in western France, is shaped like a cupcake, but the interior is airy and light—similar to the layered texture of a croissant. In 2011, The New York Times quoted a young French man calling the kouign-aman "the fattiest pastry in all of Europe." Need I say more?
After the Covid-19 pandemic arrived last year, Cherki installed hanging plastic dividers between the tables in his space. In addition to selling takeout bakery items, L'Ôpera offers a restaurant menu that includes breakfast and lunch items like omelets, salads, sandwiches and more. Cherki makes something called a fougasse ($10.90-$12.90), which he describes as akin to a pizza. It's a wide, flat bread that can be flavored with different types of cheeses and toppings—an intriguing creation.
L'Ôpera also sells a variety of dessert items (try a mini-Paris-Brest, $2.90) and fresh breads. Cherki's baguette ($3.20) has a crackling exterior that gives way to a soft center pocked with air holes, while his sourdough ($5.15) is tangy and sublime. Both taste great with just a smear of butter and some fancy salt, or as the frame for a satisfying sandwich.
Whatever you walk out with, L'Ôpera will improve your morning. Be sure to say thank you to Cherki for waking up so early.
L'Ôpera Bakery Bistrôt is located at 2336 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota, and is open 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. daily. For more info, call (941) 922-2253 or visit the restaurant's website.