Breads & Crackers
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It wouldn’t be an Italian aperitivo hour without the crunchy snacks! The delicious spreads, cheeses, and salumi we love to nibble on with a cocktail in hand go best with salty, starchy goodies like crackers and other bread products.
Traditional aperitivo snacks include taralli, breadsticks, and thin crackers. They’re usually simply flavored to provide a foundation for your snacking, rather than compete with the other, bolder flavors at play. Aperitivo hour is popular across Italy, but every part of the country has its own favorite crispy snack to do the job.
In Puglia, the crunch of choice is taralli, a twisted, ring-shaped cracker that is usually richly flavored with olive oil. Taralli can be found in many regional flavors, ranging from savory to sweet. A centuries-old tradition, there are competing legends about taralli’s origin story. They all seem to agree that the little rings were created out of necessity, either by local bakers trying to use up leftover bits of dough or poor townspeople making the most of a few basic ingredients. Their decadent flavor is perfect for aperitivo hour because it pairs so well with the astringent and bright flavors of pre-dinner cocktails.
You’ve probably seen the ultra-long, thin breadsticks known as grissini, but less well-known are their shorter sibling, rubata. As a child, the future King Vittorio Amedeo II of Sardinia suffered from a sensitive stomach. In 1679, his doctor, working with the royal baker, came up with the idea for a mild, tasty bread that would go down easily. Thus were created both grissini and rubata. They were an immediate success, not just with the young king-to-be but with nobility across Europe. Today, they’re the pride of the Piedmont region in northwest Italy.
Stock up on these and many other delightful local crackers and other crispy snacks, and you’ll always be ready for a sophisticated aperitivo hour at home.
These light-as-air crackers are new to the game, but they're so good that we have a feeling it won't be long before they're just as common as other Italian cracker contenders. Light and crunchy, this pan d’aria (“air bread”) from Mario Fongo is a cloud of delicious flavor. An innovation from the family-run bakery specializing in traditional breads and crackers from their native Piedmont region, these oval crackers are hollow with a thin, crispy shell. How they create that signature puff is a closely guarded secret; all we know is that they’re utterly irresistible.