The king of sandwiches, paninis in Italy are a far cry from paninis in North America. And just for the record, no paninis are not grilled cheese sandwiches!
In Italy, paninis are made with a special flat bread called Piadina. Padina is baked on giant pans that resemble cookie sheets. They’re a fascinating spectacle, about 2-feet by 4-feet. Each coffee shop or pizzeria will have a quarter or half of one of these giant flatbreads delivered fresh each morning.
Once in the coffee shop, the Piadina is cut into squares about 6-inches square and then each square is cut horizontal and filled with any variety of fillings. Caprese includes layers of basil, sliced fresh tomato and thin slices of fresh mozzarella or mozzarella fleur de lait (not the rubbery mozzarella we know in North America, but a more delicate, soft cheese).
Walking through Rome in December, I stumbled across Trinita coffee shop on via Sistina by the top of the Spanish Steps. I would go repeatedly for a spinach and fresh mozzarella panini. A thick layer of cooked spinach covered with thin slices of soft mozzarella fleur de lait. They would tuck it into the panini grill. After a few minutes, they’d wrap it in paper. Walking along the streets of Rome nibbling on the warm panini was divine.
Now that I’m back in Canada, I’m craving one of the great paninis’ of Italy. Savoia Gourmet Emporium has opened up a new eaterie on Martindale Road in St. Catharines. Inside are all the edible comforts of Italy including gourmet olive oils, fresh gelato and of course, paninis.
Here you’ll find the proper Panini bread and sandwiches with similar fillings. Caprese has thin slices of tomato, soft, fresh mozzarella and a smear of pesto. The warmth of the panini press brings the flavour out of the pesto for a burst of flavour in every warm bite.
The Porchetta Panini is succulent pieces of juicy, spicy porchetta layered between slow cooked onions – and no, it’s not the porchetta lunch meat! It’s a real Porchetta roast that executive chef and owner Oscar Turchi roasts up each day. Each bite reminds me of the porchetta panini from the vendor in Piazza Navona.
Get out to Savoia on Martindale Road for the best panini you’ll find outside Italy. Be sure to ask about the Italian cooking classes that should start around March.
Savoia Gourmet Emporium
Open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm
261 Martindale Road, St. Catharines