Sitting down in a restaurant, what's the first thing you expect to be brought to the table? Bread. The answer is always bread. You want fresh loaves that are still hot from the oven, a nice baked foccaccia sided with a delicious oil dipping sauce or hot, beautifully baked and golden brown rolls.  These things come with your typical Italian restaurant in America, a Bertucci's, an Olive Garden or perhaps a Carabba's. As Americans we expect at least that when entering an Italian restaurant, so finally when we pay the big bucks to get to Italy and eat at a real Italian restaurant we expect something to that standard if not better to greet you at the table.

Freshly baked grissini from Papa Razzi

Arriving at your first trattoria, you're shocked, because instead of finding freshly baked loaves of bread, the tall basket is filled with plastic packages containing what appear to be a poor quality breadstick snack, that resembles something you could potentially find at COSTCO.  My friend Lexi can attest to the feeling of having pre packaged bread crackers on her first real Italian dining experience.  Jaw drops open in astonishment at the plastic wrapped and factory manufactured contents of the so-called "bread basket".  There is no way she flew all the way to Italy to eat THOSE, and there is no way I paid my EUR2,50 coperto for factory manufactured bread products. No Way.  My first time encountering these, I think I refused to even eat them because I was so shocked such a thing would appear on the table of the trattoria.

But because I've been to Italy countless times, and have eaten in hundreds of different restaurants across Italy, it's not to say my first experience with the pre packaged breadsticks was my last. And ultimately, hunger overcame my stuck up thoughts about pre packaged, factory manufactured breadsticks. These breadsticks I soon learned to call grissini. 

Why I'm writing about grissini seems pretty pathetic, but Lexi can attest to their greatness.  Fooled by their pre packaged presentation, grissini, even in packages are sometimes better than freshly baked bread.  They are salty and fun to eat, and for some reason they make you feel skinnier because you're only munching on thin sticks of bread as opposed to large chunks of oil soaked bread. Thus this post is a forewarning to never underestimate the power of Italy's pre packaged options.  While most of Italy's freshly made produce is fantastic, sometimes their manufacture goods can compete with the Nonna's cooking in the wood burning stove. 

Grissini have floated to the top of my mind since a recent visit to Papa Razzi in Framingham.  They have a grissini maker on site, and their effect on our mouths was rather impressing, so much that our waitress did not hesitate to give us a doggy bag of grissini for home. Bottom line here is, think twice before you automatically reach for the freshly baked foccacia, you could be missing out on the most stupendous grissini, a breadstick whose appearance is non comparable to your basic loaf of bread, but after your first taste you can't put down, whether pre packaged or hand baked, I'll never doubt the deliciousness of a grissini again.