The word sfilatino derives from filo, thread, a reference to its long and narrow shape. It has currency in Perugia, where I grew up. In Milan, where I lived as a young adult, the word baguette is used. Bread is one of those food items (and there are many) whose tradition tends to be very local: as a result, names and flavors vary between different places. There are some exceptions, ciabatta being one of them.
I grew up eating a lot of sfilatini, because, before the advent of ciabatta, they were the type of bread my mother would use, together with cheese, prosciutto or salame, to make the snack I would bring to school. I never had lunch at school, because that was not the way our schooling system was organized, but we had time half-way through the morning, to eat our merenda.
Although I translate the Italian panino as sandwich, the food item I am referring to is quite different. You can buy a panino that has several ingredients making up its layers, but the home-made version is simply bread and one or two other ingredients, like cheese, or salame and cheese. Butter, other spreads, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc., are not included. My favorite panino is a piece of sfilatino, still warm from the oven, with prosciutto: pure gustatory bliss, no addition required.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the sfilatino audio file [mp3].
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