The practice of “fare la scarpetta” is one of those Italian traditions that is lost in time.
There seem to be two origins: one theory has it that bread is a metaphor for a shoe that “passing” on the plate picks up what it finds, in the same way therefore the piece of bread picks up the most delicious part of a plate.
The second story links the gesture of picking up food from the plate to the word “bootie,” meaning by this, a type of shoe that is light and flexible, alluding to the action of a person who is very hungry because he or she is poor.
What the true origin of this tasty custom is we will never know for sure but, without a doubt, making a scarpetta falls into that list of colorful ways that characterize an Italian at the table.
Beware, however, that since it is considered a “crude” practice, certain rules must be followed to do the “scarpetta” in a restaurant or formal setting: it is always better to use our hands rather than “poking bread with a fork to do the elegant scarpetta.
Gracefully, then, we can freely dip a piece of bread into the remaining sauce and savor our dish end to end.
To the rescue of the scarpetta, however, come many authoritative voices.
Master Gualtiero Marchesi has always maintained that there is nothing better for a chef than a dish that returns to the kitchen clean because the customer has literally dried the sauce to the last drop.
With politeness and grace then the little piece of bread to pick up that tasty ragout left on the plate is never a mistake.
If at the table with a group of friends no one decides to break the ice for fear of being out of place, be the first to do the scarpetta!
Making the SCARPETTA (Bootie): an all-Italian art!