A freestyle garden focaccia pre-bake decorated with edible flowers from Fresh Origins.

When we decided to put garden focaccia on the cover of issue 73, the big question that had to be answered was: Who has one of the best focaccia recipes in San Diego? Whether it’s a focaccia with a crispy bottom or one with a chewy top crust, we’ve never met a focaccia we didn’t like. This wasn’t a contest about who does it better or which version is more authentic. It was a matter of doing good public service to make this focaccia recipe available for anyone to try at home.

Solare Ristorante serves their signature rosemary focaccia to every table. If you’ve been, you know the pillowy and flavorful bread here makes a lasting impression. Owner Randy Smerik says they were even selling garden focaccia for takeout during the pandemic when 100% of food service was to-go and menu offerings had to
get creative.

Kitchen nonna, Maria Crivello prepares eggplant during Solare Ristorante's morning prep.

Focaccia is known to be an easy bread for home bakers to master—and it’s multipurpose. This dough can even be rolled out to make a thin pizza crust, according to Maria Crivello, Solare’s morning prep cook. Affectionately known as the kitchen nonna, Crivello has worked at Solare for 11 years and has been making focaccia since a time in Palermo, Sicily, when neighbors would gather to bake seasonal focaccia like these in community ovens. We trust her when she says this focaccia bread recipe “is beautiful.”

Solare Ristorante's executive chef Denice Grande preparing focaccia dough with fresh chopped rosemary.

Solare’s executive chef Denice Grande and bread chef Brian Smerik prepare batches of this easy and fluffy dough starting with Caputo 00 flour from Italy, plenty of olive oil, salt, and freshly chopped rosemary.

Solare Ristorante's bread chef Brian Smerik, handling sheets of garden focaccia in and out of the oven.

This base focaccia is a bread that one could live on, but if you want to add more to it, the possibilities are endless. Decorating garden focaccia is a great all-ages group dinner activity.

To make garden focaccia, adorn dough of different shapes and sizes with nearly any edible topping. Leave some decorative ingredients whole, pull others apart, or slice them down into different shapes. Microgreens, edible flowers, and mini crudités grown by Fresh Origins—a San Diego farm known by chefs and restaurants for stunning specialty ingredients—make the decorating easy. Specialty Produce has a large selection from the catalog of Fresh Origins products available to purchase where we grabbed other veggies like leeks (perfect for making delicate rings).

Microgreens, edible flowers, and mini crudités grown by Fresh Origins, a San Diego farm known by chefs and restaurants for stunning specialty ingredients.

When dressing the dough, consider how both appearance and flavors will combine with a sense of adventure. The baked result might surprise you both visually and in taste. Focaccia is delicious served with a simple salad, a plate of your favorite pasta, and a glass of wine if you’d like. Or make garden focaccia for yourself and devour it with a plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. No matter how you eat or who you eat it with, this is a bread to break with appreciation for the simple pleasures that food brings us and the beauty that grows from the land we stand on.

This recipe courtesy of Solare Ristorante.

» solarelounge.com

Decorative ingredients for garden focaccia gifted by Fresh Origins or purchased at Specialty Produce.

» freshorigins.com

Let's bake! Get the recipe for

Solare Ristorante's Rosemary Focaccia »

All of the focaccia variations were delicious but the one with thin orange slices was an unexpected runaway favorite. If you're baking garden focaccia at home, share it with us on social media and use #ediblesdiscooking.

This article originally published in issue 73.

Cover image by Haley Hazell for Edible San Diego.
About the Contributor
Maria Hesse
Edible San Diego's executive editor is a personal chef and lifestyle designer, podcaster on Modern Casserole, amateur pug photographer, grant writer for Media Arts Center San Diego, and co-author of The Intentionalist Cooks. Find her on Instagram @mariafromediblesd.