8 Favorite Fresh-Baked Bread Experiences at Metro Phoenix Restaurants
Bread is such an important part of a restaurant meal. It's the first solid thing to hit the table, the first impression made, the first clue as to what we might expect about all that's to follow. If it's stale or cold or dry or just plain lousy, we're not only disappointed but worried. Bad bread never bodes well. It means the kitchen is careless or -- worse -- doesn't know any better.
Buchanan Focaccia di Recco
Fifteen years ago, the best we could hope for from independent restaurants was that they bought bread from a terrific local baker. There was cachet in that (in fact, bakeries were one of the first sources restaurants ever cited) and there still is. But nowadays, more and more restaurants are baking their own breads, showing their commitment to "made in-house" and taking their cool quotient to a whole new level. Here are eight local restaurants who've made bread a DIY project.
Buchanan Schiacciata and pagnotta at Noca
Chef Claudio Urciuoli's father milled flour in Italy, and his family baked bread at home, so you might say bread-baking is in his DNA. He gained even more baking experience as a member of the original kitchen crew at bread-centric Il Fornaio, later working as right-hand man for Nancy Silverton at La Brea and finally pushing dough with Chris and Marco Bianco at Italian Restaurant here in Phoenix. The guy knows bread. At Noca, he makes two traditional Italian breads: a Tuscan flatbread called schiacciata and a round Tuscan loaf called pagnotta. For both he uses two different flours (one Italian, one organic Californian) incorporated with softened heritage grains -- farro from Italy, kamut from Montana, and einkorn (which may be the world's first domesticated grain), originally from Mesopotamia. He uses very little yeast (preferring to let his dough ferment for three to four days) but loads of water (roughly 80 percent), which means his breads are dense but light, crusty, chewy, wonderful. He says, "In the end, it's just bread and water." Hmmm, maybe so, but the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts.
Buchanan Ciabatta Pugliese at Davanti Enoteca
When executive chef Peter DeRuvo says Davanti makes the best bread in the city, it sounds like bragging, but that's hardly the case. Although he's responsible for the restaurant's heavenly focaccia di Recco (a thin, yeast-free bread filled with salty-creamy stracchino cheese, browned in the oven until crisp and bubbly, then topped with a gooey, glistening wad of honeycomb), he leaves the bulk of the bread baking to Fabio Ceschetti, a pizzaiolo from Puglia whose family owns bakeries in Italy. Ceschetti brought some of his grandfather's 70-year-old starter to Davanti, using it to create crusty, wood oven-baked ciabatta Pugliese (a shorter, fatter, more rustic version of the baguette) and Filone (an everyday Italian yeast bread similar to the baguette in texture). Customers can buy a loaf for $8. And here's a heads-up to restaurants who don't have the time and space to bake their own bread: Davanti is ready to sell it wholesale. Give DeRuvo a call.