Kitchn Love Letters

This 3-Ingredient Dinner Reminds of My Favorite Wine Bar in Italy

published Jul 1, 2022
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anchovy toast on a surface with an open can
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling Duncan Fitzpatrick

This time of year, I spend many hours pretending like I am vacationing in Italy when I am, sadly, just in my backyard. I blame it on the fact that some of my fondest memories have taken place in that boot-shaped country during the sticky, unbearably humid months of June, July, and August. There are so many sweet moments to pick out: the summers when I lived in various Italian cities, the one where I worked on a Tuscan farm, or the July when my husband and I honeymooned with a spritz in our hands.

Because I can’t get back every year, I do what I can to bring those memories — and the food that’s tied to them — to me. Which brings me to my favorite dish: a mozzarella and anchovy-topped toast that hails from my favorite wine bar in Florence, Il Santino. My husband and I had it early on our honeymoon and we couldn’t stop thinking (or talking!) about it for the rest of the week, despite the abundance of good eats at every meal.

It’s so, so easy. The perfect intersection between fancy and simple: thick toast piled with melty fresh mozzarella and a couple of oily anchovy fillets. It’s crunchy, creamy, and salty all at once. It takes no more than five minutes to make at home and pairs perfectly with cold rosé and lazy summer evenings out in the yard.

How to Make Mozzarella Anchovy Toast

While I have a recipe for this toast in my cookbook (shameless plug alert!), it’s so easy, it hardly needs one. Start with a loaf of your favorite rustic, crusty bread, like sourdough. Cut a couple of thick slices and top the slices with sliced fresh mozzarella. Place the cheese-topped bread on a baking sheet and broil until the mozzarella is melted, bubbly, and browned in a spot or two. Then slide the toasts onto plates and top with a few oil-packed anchovy fillets (lately, I’ve been finding that three is the perfect sweet spot!). If you’re hesitating because of the anchovies, know that they’re what tie the whole package together. Good-quality anchovies are umami-rich, briny, and salty, rather than fishy. They’re key in this dish.

Finish off the toasts with several grinds of coarse black pepper and head out to the yard, porch, or couch (positioned in front of the air conditioner!). We make it a complete meal by serving our toasts with a simple green salad, but anything bright and bracing like giardiniera or pickled cherry tomatoes would be nice, too.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

If You’re Making Mozzarella Anchovy Toast, a Few Tips

  • Stick with fresh mozzarella. You want the milkiness that comes with fresh mozzarella. If the mozzarella is water-packed, squeeze it gently with paper towels before slicing so it doesn’t make your toast soggy.
  • Buy good anchovies. The quality of the anchovies matters. You don’t have to splurge, but go for ones that are meaty and full-flavored. My choice is Agostino Recca.
  • Dig in right away. Melty cheese pulls are best achieved within the first few minutes after the toasts have been fully assembled, so don’t delay when serving these.

What’s your favorite travel destination? Is there a dish you make at home to pretend you’re back there? Tell us in the comments below!