Focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread similar in style and texture to pizza; in some places in Italy, it is called “pizza bianca”. Focaccia can be served as a side dish or as sandwich bread with various toppings (mainly savoury but also sweet). In Ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flatbread baked on the hearth. The word is derived from the Latin focus which means “place for baking”. The basic recipe is thought by some scholars to have originated with the Etruscans, but today it is widely associated with the cuisine of Liguria.
Focaccia has countless variations along the Ligurian coast but the most famous is focaccia Genovese (fugassa for the locals), marked by its finger-sized holes on its surface (ombrisalli in the local dialect). The traditional focaccia in Genoa is brushed with olive oil and coarse salt, and it is eaten usually in the morning at breakfast or in the afternoon as a quick snack. It is often dipped in milk or in cappuccino and eaten warm and wet. However, today you could find in the traditional bakeries of the city (some them called focaccerias) focaccias with many other toppings, such as olives, tomatoes (or tomato sauce), onions, garlic, mozzarella, and prosciutto.
No walk around the Old Port and the Old Town of Genoa is complete without tasting focaccia from one of the local bakeries. Among the many you come across be careful to try at least one of these three places :
Panificio E Grissineria Claretta (Via della Posta Vecchia, 12/r, 16123 Genova): The small and historical bakery makes excellent focaccia Genovese according to the traditional recipe in which the salt is added on the surface and not to the dough, giving to focaccia a crispy texture.
Antico Forno Patrone Zena (Via di Ravecca, 72/R, 16128 Genova): Another great bakery where you can taste soft and tasty focaccia with various toppings. Here they make also focaccia sandwiches filled with excellent local products.
Antico Forno della Casana (Vico della Casana, 17R, 16123 Genova): This is probably the most famous of the bakeries in Genoa. It is a historical institution of the city recently renovated. Focaccia here is well cooked, golden and soft. Apart from the traditional focaccia Genovese, the bakery also makes focaccia with Recco-type cheese and classic Ligurian vegetable pies.
So now when you happen to be Genoa, do as the locals do and grab a hot focaccia on the way.
*[Photo at the top by Paolo Trabattoni from Pixabay]