The first time I walked into El Brite de Larieto outside of Cortina d’Ampezzo, I immediately felt as if I were in someone’s loving home and not a restaurant. Chef Riccardo Gaspari and his wife, Ludovica, welcomed me and sat me at my own table, next to a group of twelve Romans (who, incidentally, took me to El Camineto the following night to introduce me to its famous spaghetti alla cipolla). At El Brite, I had a six-course meal that included a stuffed pasta (Casunziei all’Ampezzana) that made an impact, and this right here: bread soup made with puccia bread and served with wild chicory and an egg.
Since that first visit, Riccardo and Ludo have had two girls and opened a boutique dairy where they make their own yogurt, ricotta, and Tyrolean grey cheese—all using milk from their cows. These two understand comfort and simplicity, yet they cook creatively and freely. Choosing a recipe to share from El Brite was difficult, because they are all so good, but I decided to go with the first dish I had on that snowy night.
Allow three to four hours to make the puccia, a sandwich bread made from a simple pizza dough, that forms the base of this soup. The puccia recipe makes four buns, which allows you to stale two of them for the garnish you need, plus more for future use. Alternatively, substitute store-bought ciabatta bread or panini and make the croutons from a country-style loaf.
It may seem like overkill, seeing as this is a bread soup, but at El Brite this is served with a side of fresh baked brown bread and fresh butter, and I suggest you do the same.
If wild chicory proves hard to find, substitute dandelion leaves, escarole, or radicchio for that welcome hint of bitterness.
Reprinted with permission from Alpine Cooking, by Meredith Erickson, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Photographs copyright © 2019 by Christina Holmes.