Shortly before leaving the North End, we discovered a little bakery that makes fantastic loaves of Italian bread. The North End is full of bakeries: Modern and Mike’s are the classics for pastries, there’s a 24-hour bakery that sells pizza at 2:00 a.m. after the bars close, and a spattering of smaller shops selling Italian classics throughout the neighborhood. Modern and Mike’s are huge tourist attractions with lines out the door most evenings, while some of the smaller ones seem to see so few customers you wonder how they stay in business.
This bakery, Bricco Panetteria, bucks some of the expectations of some of the other North End spots. No cannolis or pizelles here. Instead, they offer maybe a dozen different freshly baked Italian loaves. It’s a small shop with the storefront in an alley, and you descend down a flight of stairs to get to the display of bread. Behind a short counter and cash register lies the rest of the kitchen and prep space, in open view of customers. Two of our far-and-away favorites are the prosciutto & parmesan ciabatta and the olive loaf.
Early on, we’d pick up loaves on our way home from work and eat them warm. The pockets of prosciutto or olives were plentiful, and there were nights when we’d little else for dinner except hunks of bread torn off these loaves, topped with butter or cheese, and a glass of wine. Over time, though, we started to notice there were fewer goodies baked into the loaves; the olives and prosciutto seemed more sparse, and the loaves themselves a bit smaller. Maybe the burdens of budgets and increasing production necessitated the downsizing (the bakery was named Best of Boston in 2014, so the secret’s out of the bag).
We’ll still pick up a loaf or two on our occasional trips back to the old neighborhood, but I’ve also tried my hand at my own version of the olive loaf. With some leftover buttermilk on hand after making buttermilk pancakes, I was inspired by a post on thekitchn.com and my memories of freshly baked olive loaf to make an olive-feta buttermilk quick bread.
It doesn’t have the crackly crust of the Italian ciabatta, but I’ve loaded it up with cheese and sliced olives. I’ve served it warm and topped with butter as a side to dinner and topped with scrambled eggs for breakfast.
Buttermilk Olive Loaf
Adapted from thekitchn.com
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
3/4 cup olives, roughly chopped
1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt together in a small bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients (buttermilk, egg, and olive oil) in a large bowl. Pour the wet ingredients over the flour mixture and stir to incorporate all the flour (but don’t overmix). Gently fold in the olives and feta cheese.
2. Pour the batter into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool ~10 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm.