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Bruschetta Then and Now: The Evolution of an Italian Staple

BY: Editors | Jul 8, 2015
Bruschetta Then and Now: The Evolution of an Italian Staple

When it comes to the dining scene in Milwaukee, Italian restaurants are king. Locals can choose from dozens of old-school Italian American joints and pizzerias, as well as spots that specialize in rustic recipes or contemporary spins on the classics. But regardless of what the house specialty is, chances are good that one popular appetizer will appear on the menu: bruschetta. Keep reading to learn a bit more about one of Italy’s classic, handheld antipasto dishes.

A Brief History of Bruschetta

The thought of bruschetta might conjure an image of toasted bread piled high with diced tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. However, this version of the dish would be unrecognizable to the 15th-century Tuscans, who are thought to be its originators. Derived from the Italian verb bruscare—”to char”—bruschetta at its simplest refers to slices of bread that are grilled or roasted over coals until golden brown. Traditionally, the slices were then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and rubbed with salt and a clove of garlic. The sparing use of seasoning helped highlight the quality of the individual ingredients, particularly the olive oil.

Bruschetta on the Modern Menu

If chefs over the centuries haven't been able to resist piling on a garden's worth of additional toppings, it's a testament to the universal appeal of bruschetta’s template and the sturdy foundation of rustic Italian bread. Depending on the ingredients (say, olive tapenade or roasted figs and goat cheese), bruschetta today may serve as an appetizer or a meal akin to an open-faced Italian sandwich.

Milwaukee’s Best Bruschetta

That centuries-old Tuscan recipe gets a contemporary face-lift at some of the best restaurants in Milwaukee. One such place is Onesto, where chefs put a sweet spin on bruschetta, roasting the bread in honey before topping it with tomatoes, basil, and a rich layer of housemade ricotta. Transfer Pizzeria Café offers three versions of bruschetta, though none is more popular than the bruschetta salmone, which is crowned with garlic sauce, smoked salmon, and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.