Olive Garden’s Bread Stick Crostini-- Merchandizing Blunder or Marketing Brilliance?

Olive Garden breadsticks
Olive Garden breadsticks

Did You Hear?

Did you happen to see the press release which appeared in the business section of last week’s newspaper?

NEW YORK (AP) — Olive Garden isn't finished dreaming up new ways to use its breadsticks.

The Italian restaurant chain said earlier this month it would introduce "breadstick sandwiches" as part of a broader menu revamp intended to play up its most popular offerings. The sandwiches don't arrive until June 1, but Olive Garden already has a follow-up act planned with "breadstick crostini" in August.

The "breadstick crostini" — or toasted bread — will be sliced and used as part of an appetizer, sai

A Carb-Lover's Dream?

As of this writing, we are two months away from the launch of Olive Garden's crostini made from their world-famous breadsticks. Obviously, I have not had the opportunity to taste them, so why am I writing today?

For those who have not indulged in an Olive Garden breadstick, let me digress for a moment to describe them to you: Soft, golden breadsticks, tender inside and out, brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with garlic salt. A heavenly, ethereal side dish waiting to help you sop up every luxurious drop of Olive Garden meaty spaghetti sauce, silky Alfredo sauce, or savory soup in your bowl.

What's not to love? Olive Garden's breadsticks are all that a carb-lover could want, and more!

But, the bread described above is not the bread of which crostini are made.

True, authentic Italian crostini are.....

In Italian, the word crostini means “little toasts,” which is an accurate description of this food. Crostini are made by thinly slicing bread, and toasting or grilling it so that it becomes crispy. The slices can be drizzled with olive oil. They can then be served in this simple way, or further adorned with an assortment of toppings and used as appetizers or as a garnish with soups and salads.

Are You Ready for a Story?

I would like to tell you a story about crostini, but first I need to explain what might be thought of as the holy trinity of Italian toasted breads. There are three—bruschette, crostini, and friselle.

  • Bruschetta—the name “bruschetta” is believed to come from brusca, an Italian name for the brush used to clean horses (wow, isn’t that an appealing mental image!) It is said that the rough texture of the toasted bread resembled the old curry tool used by Italian farmers.
  • Crostini are essentially the same thing, but smaller, meant to accompany soups, and they are served with some kind of spread. You will also find the word Crostini used for what we know as croutons.
  • And then there are Friselle, which are hard bagels, made with semolina or whole wheat flour. They are dried in the oven in half slices and can be stored for several months. Historically they would be taken along by the crusaders to last during their long voyage; and the fishermen who would use sea water to soften the hard bagels before adding a topping made of herbs, fish or tomatoes. (Wow, am I every glad that I missed that voyage!)

No one knows with any certainty, but according to ancient folklore, the tradition of serving toasted bread topped with garlic and olive oil originated in the Tuscanny region. My hub about Tuscan (unsalted) bread explains that this bland bread is meant to be adorned with seasonings.

Some think that the practice of placing food atop toasted bread began in medieval times, when peasants ate on slices of bread instead of using plates. One might also assume that often the bread was stale and needed the assistance of oil, vinegar, or some type of sauce or moist meats on top to soften the bread and make it chewable.

But, Marcella Hazen, renowned Italian cookbook author, believes that crostini dates back to Roman times, when a piece of bread was used to sample freshly-pressed olive oil.

Olive Garden has wonderful bread sticks, but when you are in the mood for crostini, why not make your own?

crostini
crostini

Equipment You Will Need

  • 2 large rimmed baking sheets
  • sharp serrated knife for slicing bread
  • pastry brush

How to Make Basic Crostini

  • One 8-10 ounce baguette
  • 3/4 cup good-quality olive oil
  • sea salt and coarse ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice baguette into 1/4-inch thick slices. You should get about 60 slices from one loaf.

Place the sliced baguette on two large rimmed baking sheets (about 30 on each sheet). Brush with olive oil and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake crostini in preheated oven until golden, about 15 minutes.

A Sampling of Ideas for Topping Crostini

Topping #1
Topping #2
Topping #3
Broil until bubbly
Unflavored Greek yogurt
toasted hazelnuts
drizzle of honey
 
diced, seeded, chopped tomato
olive oil and balsamic vinegar
sea salt and ground pepper
 
goat cheese
sliced strawberries
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
 
fresh ricotta
roasted red grapes
fresh thyme leaves
 
brie cheese
sliced pear or tart apple
cooked crumbled bacon
X
fresh mozarrela
sliced tomato
fresh basil leaf
 
goat cheese
fig jam
proscuitto
 
cream cheese
smoked salmon
capers & fresh dill weed
 
fresh ricotta
sliced peach
fresh basil and drizzle of honey
 
whipped feta cheese
sundried tomatoes
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
X
Gorgonzola
honey
 
X
mushrooms sauted with garlic and dash of Marsala
Gruyere cheese, grated
 
X

© 2015 Carb Diva

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Comments 6 comments

Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 18 months ago Author

Flourish - Thank you!


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 18 months ago from USA

Don't mess with the bread sticks!


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 18 months ago Author

Jackie - Don't get me wrong. I LOVE bread (hey, look at my name), and I love Olive Garden's bread sticks. BUT, I think they are making a terrible mistake with the concept of turning those bread sticks into crostini. Although, OG doesn't have the most authentic Italian food one can find. Speaking of the spinach appetizer--is it perhaps a hot dip with spinach, cheese, and artichokes?


Carb Diva profile image

Carb Diva 18 months ago Author

Bill, you always manage to make me laugh (or at least chuckle to myself).

Not eating out? That is a non-problem in this house. I find that I would much rather play in the kitchen and cook and eat my own food than (1) have to get dressed (up), (2) drive goodness-knows how far, (3) wait for a table, (4) wait for a waiter, (5) place my order and hope that the kitchen's interpretation of the words on the menu are akin to mine, (6) after an interminable amount of time finally get my food, take two bites, and decide I could have made this in my own kitchen.

Thank you, as always my friend, for stopping by.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 18 months ago from The Beautiful South

So interesting! I think I agree with you about the Friselle! I do love bread though and of course I have enjoyed Olive Gardens more than a few times with their great pastas and salads! Wish I had one closer to me now. Those Crostini look like the breads the spinach orderve was served on!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 18 months ago from Olympia, WA

Well, we don't eat out, so we've got a problem right out of the chute. :) Interesting story and information, though, but I've come to expect that from you, Linda. :)

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