By María Sonnenberg
For AL DIA TODAY
PALM BAY — Chris and Jenny Porro have literally written the book on getting sauced, but their new cookbook is not about drinking, but rather about hot sauces, a subject the Porros know inside out.
The Porros are extremely busy people in the culinary business.
In addition to creating their cookbook, they are also the owners of Over the Top Sammies, a popular Palm Bay breakfast and lunch sandwich shop, as well as the creators and operators of Tropical Spices and Catering, which feeds groups big and small, including a 2,000-person event at Eastern Florida State College. Tropical Spices and Catering additionally produces sauces that routinely take top honors at the World Hot Sauce Awards held annually in New Iberia, Louisiana. This past year, Tropical Spices’ Sing Sing sauce was pitted against sauces from 14 different countries. The sauce went on to win first prize for Best Asian Hot Sauce.
Hot off the press, “Gettin’ Sauced,” the Porro’s cookbook offers a compilation of family recipes that draws on the couple’s cultural heritage. Christopher’s background is Italian American, while Jennifer was born in Panama. The kitchen is the center of family life for both. Christopher credits the cultural blend of Italian, American and Hispanic with taking their cooking to the next level.
“’Gettin’ Sauced,” which retails for $12.50, was more than three years in the making.
“It’s an old-fashioned cookbook with more than 40 family recipes,” said Chris Porro.
“Each recipe is inspired by our award-winning hot sauces, but we also provide alternate options if you don’t necessarily want to use the sauces.”
In less than two years, the Porros have earned a reputation for unique, abundant sandwiches at Over the Top Sammies, located 2524 Palm Bay Rd., Unit 2 in Palm Bay. The restaurant, which follows a slogan of “gourmet sandwiches piled high,” is open for breakfast and lunch from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.
The restaurant recently rolled out its summer menu with additions such as the Bacon, Ham and Pimento pressed sandwich, the Chicken Yum Yum sandwich with sautéed chicken, peppers, onions, tomato and mayo and a fajita-style chicken steak sandwich served on Cuban bread with tater tops.
Of course, all the customer favorites remain, including the super-sized Decker, a magnificent sandwich served on Texas toast with mayo, tomato, Colby and Swiss cheeses, and bacon, to boot.
The Porros thought globally when creating the menu for Sammies. For example, take A Pig with Seoul, a mojo pulled pork sandwich that assumes n a whole new identity with the use of crunchy onions, spicy peppers and liberal use of Tropical Spices sweet and spicy Korean barbecue sauce.
For those who want to travel to South America without leaving home, there is El Gaucho, with mild Argentinean sausage, roasted eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and onions on a Kaiser roll.
Breakfast fare includes exotic sounding options such as The Azores with two eggs, plus bagel, chorizo, peppers, onions and Swiss cheese.
Firm believers in supporting their community, the Porros recently presented a generous gift to Palm Bay Magnet High School and also provided an outstanding student in the school’s culinary program with a summer internship.
“We have been so fortunate,” said Porro.
Tropical Spices’ hot sauces and the “Gettin’ Sauced” cookbook are available at Over the Top Sammies and online at tropicalspicesllc.com. For more information, call 321-586-4343.