What Is Bruschetta?

Let's get one thing out of the way first. In Italian, the consonant "ch" has a hard "k" sound, not a soft "sh" sound. It's not unforgivable to make that mistake, but that still doesn't change the fact that it's wrong.

But it's not just the pronunciation that's been muddled up; the true identity of bruschetta is now rather fuzzy as well. What is bruschetta, exactly? It's a popular food that, like many other Italian foods and dishes adopted into the American culinary lexicon, has seen its share of creative modifications (not just in pronunciation) since crossing the Atlantic.

The Country Cooking of Italy, "Call it the original 'garlic bread.'" (Photo courtesy of Stock.XCHNG/pyong)

eggplant and charred pepper bruschetta from James Beard Award-winning chef Chad Robertson of San Francisco. It's a delicious interpretation, for sure, but Italians visiting from abroad would probably be hard-pressed to call it "bruschetta." (Photo courtesy of Eric Wolfinger)

Others go too far — yours truly once had a pile of black mission figs, baby arugula, grilled mushrooms, and manchego cheese on some bread burdened by an aged balsamic vinegar reduction together with a fig syrup. A complex and interesting mix of flavors, for sure, but it didn't leave much of an appetite for anything else afterwards; it was closer to a meal than an appetizer — think of an open-faced sandwich.

There's nothing wrong with a little creative reinterpretation. America, after all, is a nation of enterprise and innovation. Just, whatever you do, don't call it bruschetta, and definitely don't call it broo-shedda.

Click here to see How to Order at an Italian Restaurant Without Sounding Dumb (or Pretentious).