The complimentary bread is arguably the most important component of a dining-out experience. It’s the part of the meal that sets the tone for the rest. But what makes the perfect piece of bread? To me it consists of a warm combination of golden crunch, a light fluffy interior and a blended taste of slightly salty sourdough. In search of the perfect complimentary bread in Marin, I journeyed to four restaurants, equal in merit, but varying in quality. Each complimentary bread would stand alone without any dip or butter. The most perfect bread would score 5 of 5 buns.
For my first stop, I made my way to downtown Mill Valley and went to Pizza D’Angelo (22 Miller Ave), an Italian restaurant. D’Angelo served two types of bread, walnut and sourdough, and out of all the restaurants, it served the most slices and with a side of pesto sauce. This bread was slightly cold and had a brown outer layer, and it lacked the inviting look that the other breads had. It was quite crunchy and at times was hard to chew. The inside was fairly fluffy, however it lacked in flavor, and had a generic taste with no extra charm so, I gave this bread 3 buns out of 5 buns.
My second restaurant was Pizza Antica (800 Redwood Hwy #705), an American-style Italian restaurant, in Strawberry Village. I had high hopes for the bread since Pizza Antica has been one of my favorite restaurants since I was little. The bread looked appetizing, and it was coated with a golden outer layer and a few drizzles of olive oil presented in batches of four with a side of oil and vinegar. The first bite of focaccia instantly mesmerized me with a slightly salty taste. One bread piece was a whopping two inches thick, that looked and tasted fresh. However, it was chewy, had no crunch, and was a bit cold, which was a let down. The taste was the best part of this complimentary bread, but the the texture held it back. I’d rate this bread a 3.5 buns out of 5 buns.
Next, I ventured to The Cheesecake Factory (1736 Redwood Hwy) in Corte Madera. The Cheesecake Factory serves a culmination of cuisines. This restaurant served two different breads, sourdough and pumpernickel, with a side of butter. The sourdough was definitely the more desirable of the two , although the pumpernickel did provide a healthier option. I loved the sourdough bread. It was crunchy, came out warm and had lovely taste. The pumpernickel didn’t have any crunch but it had decent flavors. I gave this bread 2 buns out of 5 buns.
For my fourth and final restaurant I visited Piatti’s (625 Redwood Hwy), another Italian restaurant right across the highway from Pizza Antica. I had never been to the restaurant, so I came with no expectations. Upon entering, I immediately noticed the class and sophistication the entire restaurant exuded, and the bread was no exception. When it arrived at the table I was in awe of the slight steam rising from the bread and the golden brown exterior. It was served in sets of five pieces with a side of olive oil infused with red pepper flakes. This sourdough’s presentation was mouthwatering to say the least. It had an amazing crunch and was incredibly fluffy and soft on the inside. It was filling, yet still managed to be light. I rated this bread a score of 4.5 buns out of 5 buns. Adding a pinch more of salt would have made it perfect. Nothing could beat the warm, crunchy and fluffy slice of bread that they served, but they still did not achieve a 5 bun out of 5 bun rating. Thus, my quest for the perfect bread must continue.