The Italian word panino, which means little bread, also refers to a sandwich assembled with such bread. In Italy, the sandwiches are served regular and pressed. The plural of panino is panini, which stateside, has become synonymous with a flat sandwich, heated in a clamshell-like griddle with a weighted top.
On the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, the Marini family has taken a rhyming opportunity to add a savory element to their sweet repertoire with Marini's Paninis. Rather humorous literarily (it's like saying Steve's geeses), these sandwiches are nothing to laugh at.
At the rear of the candy and ice cream store (they have coffee beverages, too) a billboard announces the sandwich selection. Vegetarian Classics include the Santa Cruzin' ($6.99) which combines roasted red peppers, avocado and mozarella cheese with Mediterranean mayonnaise, and the AB&J ($5.50) with almond butter and strawberry jam.
Three meat versions ($6.99) include the Cowell's Beach with Black Forest ham, cheddar cheese, mustard and mayonnaise as well as the Club J. Dub with roasted turkey, provolone, bacon, and avocado. All sandwiches can be ordered not grilled, just like in the old country.
I decided to go the "Custom" route ($5.98), choosing from a list of meats, condiments, cheeses and extras. I had to wait perhaps ten minutes, as a family of four was in the queue before me. It typically takes only about five minutes to heat the sandwich. Between a large slice of crisp-crusted and grill-marked focaccia bread were thin, peppered slices of salami, spicy rings of red onion, fat tomatoes, and provolone cheese. One half was spread with spicy whole grain mustard, the other with finely minced muffuletta filling, an herbed combination of minced green olives and red chilies.
Marini's Munchies, Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf #55A, 425-7341. Serving panini 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Visit mariniscandies.com
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