In Italy, the act of sopping up a little sauce with a little piece of bread is called la scarpetta. It's considered uncouth, poor etiquette--but not by the people who I hang out with at the table, who appreciate a great sauce and want to savor the last bite. Livia Iaccarino, elegant restaurateur, says that the scarpetta captures the essence of the dish and encourages diners to clean their plates, not a tough call in her restaurant. But why wait until you've finished a dish for a scarpetta? Inspired by this tradition, I often begin a meal with "scarpettine", mini-versions of the "scarpetta", by lightly toasting sliced (often yesterdays) bread, cutting it into 1"-1.5" squares, and topping each with a little sauce or condiment. I turn leftovers into toppings--greens cooked with garlic and peperoncino, a few spoonfuls of pasta sauce (put aside when I made the sauce), cooked artichoke stems (already ate the artichokes) pureed with extra virgin. Quality jarred sauces, like Mongetto's or those of Dispensa di Amerigo are perfect for those without leftovers. I like a smear of robiola or creamy goat cheese topped with mostarda or herbs or crisp breadcrumbs or cavolo nero chips. Or ricotta mixed with Parmigiano. You get the idea.
-March 2010 link to article published in The Atlantic Magazine