In Italy it is called bruschetta, fett’unta and by various names in different regions, but the basic concept is that bread, fresh or old, is grilled or toasted and then brushed with olive oil. Toppings are optional, and surely seasonal. In the United States, this Italian custom took on different versions and became garlic bread. Garlic bread was an open loaf of Italian bread brushed with butter or oil and lots of chopped garlic sprinkled with dry oregano and grilled or baked. I recall my Italian American restaurant visits and liking the grilled and warm bread but the garlic was always too much for me. I must say that now in most Italian American restaurants the grilling and toasting of bread has come full circle, and bruschetta as well as garlic bread graces the table.
Here are three versions of the garlic bread made with the Italian American tradition in mind. Just keep a handle on the garlic.
In a small bowl, combine olive oil and garlic and steep about 30 minutes, to let the flavors mingle.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Split bread in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half again, to make 4 pieces. Set pieces cut side up on a sheet pan. Brush bread with the flavored oil, then rub with the garlic cloves, leaving the garlic pieces on the bread after rubbing. Sprinkle with the dried oregano.
Bake until bread is golden and crispy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove any large garlic pieces and lightly season bread with salt before serving.
Garlic Bread Topped with Cheese
Pane Strofinato con Formaggio
Substitute ¼ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmeggiano-Reggiano for the oregano.
Garlic Bread Rubbed with Tomatoes
Pane Strofinato con Pomodoro
Cut some ripe tomatoes crosswise in half. While the baked bread is still hot, rub cut surfaces of the bread with the tomato halves, until the bread has absorbed the tomato juices and the tomato pulp has rubbed onto the bread. Season lightly with salt, drizzle some extra-virigin olive oil on top, and serve immediately.