Anatomy of a Classic

Showstopping Sweet-and-Savory Garlic Bread Rolls

Nashville chef Ryan Poli elevates the old favorite to new sugary and salty heights

A silver tray of garlic rolls with flaky salt, cheese, and parsley


When chefs travel, it’s a good bet they’re going to bring back ideas. That’s what happened when Ryan Poli left the celebrated Nashville restaurant Catbird Seat at the end of 2018 and headed across the globe. “I shot over to Asia to get my head straight,” he says.

Stay in Touch with G&G
Get The Skillet, our weekly food and drink newsletter.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

After stops in Japan, Thailand, Bali, and South Korea, the chef returned with an idea inspired by a Korean street snack that moves garlic bread into another dimension. “I haven’t seen it in America,” he says. “It’s a little sweet and a little savory, which is the American palate. We love sweet and savory and sugary and salty. This one hits all those notes.”


Poli tucked the dish away for a few years while he waited out the pandemic and pondered his next move. When he began designing the menu for Iggy’s, the modern Italian restaurant he opened in Nashville last spring with his brother Matthew, the bread seemed a perfect fit. The recipe requires a leap of faith on the part of cooks who can’t imagine mixing something sweet with a heavy dose of garlic. But the result is a master class in how to turn a simple starter like garlic bread into a surprisingly delicious showstopper.

Poli begins with brioche rolls baked at the restaurant, but any good store-bought Italian or other soft roll will also do. He slices each roll into sixths, making sure not to slice all the way through. Next, he pipes a cream cheese mixture that essentially tastes like carrot cake frosting in between the slices. The whole roll then gets dipped into a garlicky batter made with butter, eggs, milk, and Parmesan; sprinkled with the crunch of Maldon salt; and popped into the oven for about fifteen minutes. The roll that emerges tastes both slightly crispy and slightly moist, with the deep bass note of the garlic tempering the creamy sweetness.

“I think we are doing a disservice calling it garlic bread,” Poli says. Customers, especially older ones expecting a traditional version, are sometimes taken aback. Indeed, the rolls would work equally well at brunch or an evening meal. He encourages the skeptical to take a chance. “The more you eat it,” he says, “the better it gets.”



  • Iggy’s Garlic Bread (Yield: 6 rolls)

  • For the filling

    • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

    • 3 tbsp. sugar

    • 2 tbsp. heavy cream

    • ⅛ tsp. salt

  • For the dip

    • ½ cup milk, room temperature 

    • 3 tbsp. minced garlic 

    • 1 tbsp. sugar 

    • 1 tbsp. salt

    • 2 eggs, beaten

    • ¼ cup grated Parmesan

    • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley

    • 8 oz. unsalted butter, melted

  • For the bread

    • 6 large round rolls, preferably white Italian, challah, or brioche 

    • Flaky salt, such as Maldon


  1. Make the cream cheese filling: Combine cream cheese, sugar, heavy cream, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip on medium-high until sugar is dissolved and mixture is fluffy, about 3 minutes.

  2. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag or into a ziplock plastic bag, smoothing the mixture so it fills one corner. Snip off a small piece of the corner, and set aside until you finish preparing the bread and the dip.

  3. Make the dip: In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, garlic, sugar, salt, eggs, Parmesan, and parsley until well combined. Slowly add the warm melted butter, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from cooking.

  4. To assemble: Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut each roll onto 6 wedges, being careful not to cut all the way through the bread. The roll should stay intact. Pipe an even, thick line of filling between each wedge, taking care not to tear the roll. Dip the entire roll into the butter mixture, making sure the bottom and the interior of the wedges are coated. Hold the roll upside down over the bowl to let excess drip off. Repeat with each roll, and arrange them on a parchment-lined pan. (Note: You will have some butter mixture left over.)

  5. Sprinkle a generous pinch of flaky salt on each roll. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until rolls are crispy. Serve warm, although they are good at room temperature, too.


An illustration of a man with dark hair wearing a grey tee and a black jacket




Tips for the food-focused traveler: Create a flexible itinerary before you go. “If you don’t have a loose plan going in, you’re going to get swallowed.” Make friends with servers at a restaurant and ask where they eat. “And if you see a line for food, get in it.”


Favorite kitchen item: A plastic Japanese mandoline.


When he’s not cooking: “I do a lot of jujitsu and a lot of yoga.”


Illustration by Lara Tomlin