Most people like bread. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I’ve ever met who actively dislikes the stuff. Perhaps you, like me, are picky about it. Maybe you only like sliced bread/baguettes/bagels/naan. Even I, the pickiest bread eater, cannot resist a good baguette or a chewy everything bagel.
Italy has polarizing bread. There isn’t a defining loaf, like France has with the baguette, nor do their loaves lend themselves to getting slathered in
sunflower seed butter peanut butter. Each area has different bread and, even within a given region, the types of bread varies wildly. This might seem overwhelming and confusing (it kind of is), but the russian roulette of buying bread makes up for the oft-lacking quality.
Let’s take a trip to the panificio and see what we can find. Panificio is where we buy our bread, it means bread bakery. While we may see a couple sweet treats, they will be of a homey variety. There aren’t any cakes or chocolate confectionary to be seen here. The most you’ll be offered are some brioche or, perhaps, scrappy pastafrolla tarts.
The words ‘nostra produzione’ or ‘produzione propria‘ are good. They mean that the bread was either baked on premise or made locally, our production. Of course, you may not see those. In that case, look out for other tell-tale signs. Do the breads look perfectly uniform or are there scraggly differences among them? A bakery with hand written signs in the window is a good clue indeed.
Inside you’ll find a dizzying array of breads. You’ll find focaccia, pizza al trancio, sfilatine, panini (rolls), pane, sweet breads, savory breads, brioche, cookies and more. The focaccia may be simply drizzled with olive oil or topped with anything from olives and zucchini to sausage and onions. The pizza could be a simple rosso or margherita. There are sfilatini with mixed vegatables, walnuts and olives. Panini can be light and white, dense and studded with nuts or coated in sesame seeds. There is pane alle uvette, Italy’s cinnamon raisin bread without the cinnamon. There is pan di mais, a corn bread made with yeast.
The prices range from ridiculous cheap cookies by the kilo to the more expensive focaccie and pani. No matter what you choose, you’ll have a difficult time breaking 10 euro if you are buying for four people or less.
Italian bread may not be known all over the world for its quality, but the dizzying array of baked goods makes the panificio a worthy stop for any food minded traveller.
What is your favorite ethnic bread? Do you like Italian bread?