A History of Bruschetta, Italy’s Favorite Appetizer
What’s everyone’s favorite Italian appetizer? We might not get everyone’s consensus, but at The International Kitchen we’re thinking throughout the peninsula it is that versatile—and affordable—piece of toasted bread known as “bruschetta.”
So what makes us call this Italy’s #1 appetizer?
First, it’s both versatile and multi-regional. Quite simply, bruschette (note the plural form) are slices of toast with stuff on top. The most common type of bruschetta, pronounced “brew-SKET-tah,” no matter what you may here at restaurants in the States and elsewhere, is toasted bread topped with fresh tomatoes dressed with garlic, basil, olive oil, and salt. But if you travel to Tuscany, for example, for some classic crostini (another word for bruschetta), you’ll find such toppings as chicken liver or “black” kale (sometimes called Tuscan kale or Lacinato kale). In Abruzzo the most famous version is topped with a local pork salami called “ventricina.” The most basic bruschetta? Toasted bread rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt. This version is also known as fett’unta (literally, oily slice) or panunta (oily bread).
While it is known mostly from its ubiquity in the regions of Lazio, Abruzzo, and Tuscany, you can find versions of it throughout the peninsula and beyond. In Sardinia there is a version made with the island’s super-thin, crisp pane carasau, which is lightly toasted over a wood burning fire, then drizzled with olive oil and salt.
The Origins of Bruschetta
Bruschetta also has a long and I would say noble history. Regardless of whether it dates back to the Etruscans or the Ancient Romans, as some purport, one thing is certain: for centuries it fed laborers and farmers with days’ old bread. It served both as a hearty snack or meal for those doing hard manual labor, and as a way to salvage bread that had gone stale. This might not be the loftiest manifestation of what has become a culinary genre all its own, but it is surely the most fundamental.
Finally, the beauty of a bruschetta is all about its simplicity. There is no way to make a good bruschetta from bad ingredients. It is at its essence all about how good the bread and olive oil are (and most would say that in fact the quality of the olive oil is the number one deciding factor), although all the ingredients need to be good for a good bruschetta.
What is your favorite bruschetta? Do you like it simple, with oil, garlic, and salt, or topped with other ingredients? What’s the most unique bruschetta you’ve ever had? Do you agree that it’s Italy’s favorite appetizer? Let us know in the comments or on social media!
By Peg Kern
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