In Italy, the act of sopping up sauce with a little piece of bread is called la scarpetta. It's considered uncouth and poor etiquette—but not by the people I eat with who appreciate a great sauce and want to savor the last bite. Livia Iaccarino, an elegant restaurateur, says the scarpetta captures the essence of the dish and encourages diners to clean their plates—not a tough call in her restaurant.
But why wait until you've finished a dish for a scarpetta? Inspired by the tradition, I often begin a meal with "scarpettine," or mini versions of the "scarpetta," by lightly toasting sliced bread (often yesterday's) and cutting it into approximately one-inch squares. I then top each square with a sauce or condiment. I turn leftovers into toppings—greens cooked with garlic and pepperoncino, a few spoonfuls of homemade pasta sauce put aside, cooked artichoke stems pureed with extra virgin olive oil. Quality jarred sauces, like Mongetto's or those of Dispensa di Amerigo are perfect for those without leftovers. I also like a smear of robiola or creamy goat cheese topped with mostarda, herbs, crisp breadcrumbs, cavolo nero chips, or ricotta mixed with Parmigiano—you get the idea.