Did you know that the singular form of the word Panini is actually Panino? Or that real Italian Panini aren’t grilled and hot-pressed like they are in the U.S.? Yeah, neither did we. But since August is National Panini Month, we figured we needed to get our facts straight. Also, we thought we’d take this opportunity to put together a list of the best places to find them in New York City, because whether you’re looking for a quick fix or a long dine, a Panini is guaranteed to hit the spot. By Margeau Barnes
Ballarò in the East Village delivers authenticity from the beginning; it is actually named after a Sicilian street market. One of the core Italian ingredients to most Paninis is Brasaola, so we decided to try the Mucca for brunch. The Mucca is made with tomato, Brasaola, parmesan, arugula, lemon, and olive oil. Our friendly waitress even explained to us how they make Brasaola (air dried beef) in her country. Once we realized that the entire wait staff spoke Italian, we knew we had gotten the experience we came for.
Via Quadronno is a perfect pit stop after your weekend visit to the Whitney, Met, or stroll in Central Park. It is quaint and unassuming, yet elegant, making its resemblance to a true European café even greater. We recommend the Tentazione Panini with prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, rucola, shrimp, and pink sauce — it will change your life. It truly is a hidden gem of the Upper East Side.
Gaia Italian Cafe
At Gaia, you can get a lot of bang for your buck without skimping out on authenticity. It is small but charming; you might even be lucky enough to see Gaia herself preparing your food. One thing is for sure, she puts a lot of heart into her cooking and your taste buds will be able to feel it. If you happen to go with a friend, make sure to order a few Paninis to share–their Panini selection is too big and good to decide on just one. Beyond that, the second most raved about item is Gaia’s lasagna, so make sure to add that to your order.
Pisillo Italian Panini
Pisillo is one of those places you’d never notice by simply walking by, but gets its wide praise and following through word of mouth. It’s rather perfect for a quick lunch pick-up, although they do have several tables if you wish to sit in. Be warned that Pisillo is known for its huge portions, so it is probably best (and more fun) to share. We also found out that it is owned by an Italian family from a town near Napoli, can you get anymore genuine than that?
Make sure to grab a sandwich from Sergimmo next time you’re on your way to Penn Station, you won’t be disappointed. Similar to Pisillo, it is on the smaller side and more ideal for a quick lunch on the go. One of their most popular sandwiches is the #3, which is made with prosciutto, mozzarella, and basil. But if you want to be a little more adventurous, we urge you to try their famous “VIP” sandwich, which adds a delicious fig jam to the classic prosciutto, mozzarella, and arugula combination.