BRANDON - After moving to Brandon from Peru in 1979, Aldo and Saida Rodriguez opened Latin Touch Italian and Spanish Grocery, 736 W. Brandon Blvd., in 1984. At the time, Brandon was still small. For a while, Latin Touch was the only place in town to buy Cuban sandwiches, chorizo, Italian sausages and other ethnic groceries and meats.
Nowadays, wholesale clubs, supermarket chains and other stores sell many of those basic items, so Latin Touch is changing, said Aldo Rodriguez.
They plan to offer more sandwiches, like palomilla steak sandwiches and "fritas," seasoned ground beef patties, at their regular take-out counter service at the store near Kings Avenue.
They will eliminate their center shelving and add long, stainless steel tables. Perimeter shelves will display hard-to-find, specialty items their customers still want and need.
The Rodriguezes expect to begin implementing changes, such as opening earlier to serve café con leche and breakfast sandwiches, in August.
Latin Touch's authentic Cuban sandwiches will stay: Customer demand is high for those, said Saida Rodriguez. They make them on full-length loaves of fresh Cuban bread delivered daily by Casino Bakery in Ybor City.
Aldo Rodriguez learned the skill from the late Cuban-sandwich master, Angelo Cacciatore of Ybor City, for whom he worked before opening Latin Touch.
Daily the Rodriguezes make about 100 Cuban sandwich loaves for call-ahead customers, walk-ins, and independent stores - from Brandon to as far away as Winter Haven and Dade City.
The secret of their sandwiches is balance, said Aldo Rodriguez. "It has to have a balance, otherwise you don't taste the bread, you don't taste the salami, you don't taste the pork, you don't taste the cheese. The best Cuban sandwich in the world is the one you like. It's as simple as that."
Latin Touch currently is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call ahead to place orders at (813) 681-7995.
Send stories of community interest to Barbara Routen at Neighbors@tampabay.rr.com.