A few days ago I was gifted some “almost’ stale bread from a cafe located a few doors down from my job. Not everyone would readily accept over the hill bread, but I happily grabbed two loaves and knew I could find a use for them. The heartier multigrain loaf would be perfect for toast topped with just about anything-butter, jam, peanut butter or sharp cheddar from Vermont. The ciabatta got me thinking about grilled bread and in an instant I was transported back to two of my favorite Italian eateries.
Both are classified as enotecas and yes, the wine selection is clearly the star. That being said, the simple food offered at both places won me over in an instant. The first is located in the Oltrarno area of Florence (on the other side of the Arno river). Bar Fuori Porta has a special place in my heart as we discovered it on our first trip to Italy. At the time, not understanding the language, we didn’t have a clue to the difference between the selections on their menu but somehow we muddled through and enjoyed each and every bite.
La Torre di Gnicche is located right off Arezzo’s Piazza Grande. It would be easy to miss this unassuming small spot and it took me a few walks by before I ventured in. As with Bar Fuori Porta, the wine list is extensive and the menu highlights crostini, crostone, bruschette, formaggi (cheeses) and affettati (sliced meats like prosciutto, salami). I happily sat down to a plate of grilled bread topped with sauteed mushrooms and fontina cheese. I went back for more the following day.
So what did I do with my stale bread? Grilled it, topped it with burrata cheese and some cherry tomatoes that I had roasted in the oven. A drizzle of olive oil, a dollop of caper pesto and along with a glass of barbera it was almost as if we were somewhere in Italy.