KEYS EATS: BAYSIDE GOURMET’S BRUSCHETTA IS A MUST TRY

Bruschetta at Bayside Gourmet in Islamorada. SAMANTHA DELLILO/Keys Weekly

This heavenly antipasto dish is spelled bruschetta and pronounced “bruu-skeh-tuh.”  

Traditionally, you take a slice of bread or baguette, grill or toast it, rub a garlic clove all over and top it with chopped tomatoes, basil, olive oil , salt and maybe a little balsamic glaze. It’s a very healthy appetizer that punches a huge flavor. Although I love it, a couple things I’ve never been a fan of is the toast level of the bread with the chopped raw tomatoes. Basically, you take a bite and everything falls off of your little slice. I never order bruschetta anywhere if I’m wearing a nice dress. 

A local restaurant has solved all those problems and made it the best I’ve ever had. Bayside Gourmet at MM 82 is a retro ’80s and Philadelphia-style hybrid of a restaurant. If you’ve eaten there you know every single thing on the menu any time of day is good. The pasta is high quality and they literally roast whole tomatoes for fresh sauce. How many restaurants can say that?  

We never make plans after dinner at Bayside Gourmet. The pasta entrees are so massive that you’re lucky to make a dent in them and get home in time for a food coma. I can’t rave about them enough, but the unique winner that I absolutely adore is their bruschetta appetizer. 

Right out of the gate, when you pick up your bruschetta, you’ll notice none of the tomato is falling off. This is because Bayside Gourmet bakes its rosemary bread in-house and uses a wider slice of crostini. They don’t grill it to oblivion like most places. It has a light toasty, crispy outside with a slightly doughy middle. The tomatoes are like candy.

They’re roasted with garlic and just have this soft, perfect bite. Since they’re cooked and not raw like most bruschetta, they form to the top of the crostini better and don’t try to jump off the bread before making it to your mouth. I retract my previous statement: Bayside Gourmet is the only restaurant where I’ll order bruschetta in a nice dress. No mess there.

On top of the little mound of tomato confit is the freshest shredded basil in the land. I’ll bet this basil is grown near oregano because I got hints of both herbs in this mouth-watering dish. They top it off with a little extra virgin olive oil drizzle, parmesan, orchid garnish and voila, delizioso. This is not one of those appetizers you’ll hear someone at the table saying “no, you take the last one” with all the back and forth pleasantries. Every man for themselves when this app is set in the center.

Don’t let the pronunciation discourage you from trying out this starter, you can always just point to the menu. Head over to Bayside Gourmet and sit amongst the ’80s memorabilia to make some new memories at this upbeat joint.

Samantha Dellilo has been in the Keys since she was 1 day old, so definitely consider her a Conch. Holding a passion for food since she can remember, while most kids were watching Barney, she was watching Emeril. "Being half Cuban and half Italian, food in those cultures is considered a love language. It's a total experience whether eating out or cooking." She's been with her other half, Marky, going on 17 years. The two met when they were 9 years old at Key Largo School. Samantha owns Florida Keys Eats, which is a blog of "must eat, must see, and must dos" from Key Largo to Key West.