PERRYSBURG — Justin Bytnar’s Loving Italy Bruschetta is a favorite appetizer for an Italian meal.
He and his wife, Samantha, fell in love with Italy on a trip there just before the pandemic. Since things have opened up they went back for a three-week trip last October.
That first trip was chosen by a simple bucket list comparison.
“It’s not even close,” he said, comparing it to other places they’ve been.“We’re big travelers.
“I think she wanted to try the wine from Tuscany. I wanted to try the food. So, it just made sense. And Venice was on both of our bucket lists,” Justin said.
The beach photo of their 2018 marriage, on the beach in Bora Bora, looks like a postcard. Justin had fun pulling out travel shots.
“We love all things Italy. It’s probably his favorite vacation spot,” Samantha said.
Justin is a Realtor with Danberry Realtors out of Maumee. Samantha is an engineer for Adient, an automotive seating manufacturer.
She got the bug for travel while an undergraduate at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and cemented that wanderlust as a Peace Corps member in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
Both of them are volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Justin is the chair for the site selection subcommittee. His work skills as a Realtor come in handy for that position, as that committee finds the locations for the Habitat building projects.
They also have a dog, Daphney, a young and very energetic Bernese mountain dog and small poodle combination. She does a wide variety of tricks, including walking on her hind legs.
While they love to travel to foreign locations, they prefer to shop locally.
Bytnar buys his baguette at Sur Le Pouce French bakery in Perrysburg. The Bytnars are big fans of the bakery. They think the bread is the best around and it’s a local family business.
“We love to buy from local business owners,” Justin said. “We’re obsessed with local business owners. We don’t like big businesses.”
As with travel, the couple also cooks together.
“Snack on this while cooking the rest of the meal,” Samantha said about the bruschetta.
Everything should be eaten fresh as possible, she said.
“Fresh herbs are a must. There’s going to be a move this summer where I do some hard core gardening,” Justin added.
Use only fresh garlic. He does not use a garlic press, but chops it.
“Big tubs of minced garlic don’t work. It’s got to be fresh,” he said.
He likes pairing with an Italian beer called Birra Moretti, which they described as a classic Italian lager. Walt Churchill’s Market ordered it in for him.
Samantha suggests a white wine, or an Italian spritz, as a cocktail before dinner. The spritz choice for this dinner, which was a chicken piccata, was a Negroni Sbagliato. The sbagliato means “incorrect” in Italian. The story goes that the drink inventor accidentally substituted prosecco for gin.
The recipe for the Negroni Sbagliato spritz is 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce sweet vermouth and 3 ounces of prosecco, with an orange peel garnish.
Loving Italy Bruschetta
Loaf of French baguette
28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped basil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
Do a quick cooking of the garlic, in hot olive oil, for about 20-30 seconds. Let cool and toss with all ingredients in a bowl. Make sure the tomatoes are cold. Use salt to taste.
Cut the bread into slices about a half-inch thick and toast it on a cookie sheet in the oven until golden brown. Bytnar buys his bread fresh at the Sur Le Pouce French bakery in Perrysburg.
Just before serving, generously spoon the ingredients onto the toasts.