Several decades ago there was a restaurant in Baltimore's Little Italy called Maria's 300. One of their claims to fame is that Al Capone was a regular there when he was in town from Chicago. Supposedly, one of the reasons that he visited Maria's was her garlic bread. Legend has it that her's was better than any he could find in Chicago.
On my first visit to Maria's in the early '70's I had her garlic bread and, Al was right!!! She made the most incredible garlic bread that I had ever had. I learned that the waittresses were actually the ones who made the garlic bread for their customers-not the kitchen. I became a regular at Maria's and tipped well. Over time I learned their recipe for garlic bread and began to make it for myself. Over the weeks and months I travelled to Baltimore less frequently, entertaining more in my apartment forty miles away.
Her garlic bread, though, remains a "specialty" of mine to this day. It is the best that I have ever had. Many people on this board have also had it. This is the recipe:
Two loaves of seeded Italian bread
3/4 pound of unsalted Irish butter (or unsalted Vermont butter)
one head of garlic, minced (yes, a HEAD of garlic, minced. A LARGE head of garlic!)
crushed hot pepper flakes
Slice the bread with a bread knife approximately one inch thick
Coat each slice with a heavy layer of the garlic mixed/blended well with the softened butter-there may be a bit more than a tablespoon for each slice; perhaps two tblsp. It is easiest to let the butter soften to room temperature for an hour or so before blending it with the garlic.
Grate fresh Reggiano over each slice; coat the slices with the Reggiano for a full layer of cheese on each.
Sprinkle caraway seeds over this
Sprinkle crushed basil over this
Sprinkle a few hot pepper flakes over this
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately ten minutes until the bread is crusty and the interior of the slices are soft from the melted garlic butter. Serve HOT.
Toast Al with each bite...
And, I should note that Maria's 300, a long time Baltimore Little Italy tradition is now long gone. Still, this was a recipe that stands the test of time and I thank her...and Al for it.
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