Why You May Not Find Garlic Bread In Italy

As delicious as authentic Neapolitan pizza or Roman pasta carbonara are, the wide world of Italian-American fusion cuisine satisfies in its own right, offering a bevy of classic, widely-adored dishes including chicken parmesan, shrimp scampi and penne with vodka sauce. In many cases, these dishes do have roots in Italy, but were adapted to local ingredients by a wave of Italian immigrants to the United States, which reached its peak in the early 1900s (via HuffPost). Thanks to the resourceful souls who attempted to recreate the tastes of their homelands using unfamiliar ingredients, we can regularly tuck into the traditionally red sauce-heavy, garlic-forward plates that may not be original to Italy, but are oh-so-comforting.

When it comes to that tasty allium, there's perhaps no Italian-American dish more well-suited to garlic lovers than garlic bread, which in its peak form features pillowy-yet-crusty white bread slathered with garlic butter and toasted or broiled to perfection (via Smitten Kitchen). As you may have suspected, garlic bread as we know it in America is not an authentically Italian dish, but it may have been inspired by a classically Italian way of celebrating the olive oil harvest.

Garlic-rubbed bruschetta is garlic bread's distant cousin

If you've ever enjoyed a slice of crusty garlic bread, then you know this snack is no wallflower. It comes in hot with tons of melty butter and a huge amount of garlic that cries out for a post-enjoyment breath mint. But some admirers of the Italian-American treat posit that it may have been inspired by a much more reserved and classically Italian preparation of crispy bruschetta rubbed with fresh garlic and doused in good olive oil.

As explained by the New York Times, olive oil-producing regions in Italy traditionally celebrate the olive harvest — and the bold, newly-pressed olive oil that results from it — by tucking into bruschetta. While we might know bruschetta as the toasted bread topped with garlicky chopped tomatoes that was often offered as an appetizer on many restaurant menus in the 1990s (via Cook In/Dine Out), in Italy, "bruschetta" typically refers to a thick slice of bread that's simply toasted, rubbed with cut garlic, doused in good olive oil, and sprinkled with salt (via the New York Times).

According to the Washington Post, this distant Italian cousin might well be the inspiration for the garlic bread we all know and love — one that's not, the paper notes, a thing in Italy. But we think there's room for both delicious iterations in any home kitchen.