The Simplicity of an Italian Dish

One of the many reasons I love Italian food is the fact that perfection can be obtained by us mere mortals. Those of us who indulge in the various dishes from this country don’t have to have spent years studying the craft, not understand the subtle nuances of flavor to hit the right notes. Perfection comes from the quality of the ingredients rather than the techniques used to cook said ingredients. Oh sure, a good chef can add new twists and make great dishes transcendent, but a good meal can be prepared by those with only adequate talent.

This is the thought that came to my mind last night when Tara took me to a little place called Angelina’s Trattoria. By all definitions, this isn’t a great restaurant. But it is passable, and it’s quite possible to have an enjoyable meal. And really, isn’t that all that one can ask for in a place?

But I digress.

They serve bruschetta at Angelina’s, as most Italian joints are prone to do. It is, quite frankly, the best thing I’ve had at the place. The bruschetta itself is lightly toasted and then brushed with olive oil and a little garlic. The toppings available for spreading make me joyful every time I read them – Olive Tapenade, a pepperdew pepper relish, and the roasted garlic spread are the ones we pick from the list of those available.

Part of my joy comes from the fact that Angelina’s knows that bruschetta is the toasted bread and NOT the topping on the bread. Nothing irritates me more than going into the supermarket and seeing bruschetta being sold as sort of an “Italian Salsa”. Heathens.

But again, I digress.

My joy at this appetizer would not be complete if the dish didn’t taste great. And it does. The tapenade is briny, but not overly so. The relish is both sweet and salty. And the roasted garlic? When placed in the mouth, the sugars from the garlic come out and play with the warmth of the umami that sits on the back of the tongue. When mixed with the slightly warmed crunch of the toast, it is bliss…pure unadulterated bliss.

That so much joy should come from a dish so simple should be a wake up call for everyone playing with foams and reductions. Here is a simple appetizer found on a menu of a mediocre Italian restaurant, and it brings the same joy and pleasure that one can find on four star menus across the world.

Ain’t Italian food grand?