>> Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Il Panino Express is a casual, Italian restaurant right across the street from our condo. The food is fast, consistently good, and cheap. If we're short on time, it's definitely our favorite place to eat. You order food at the counter and then they call your name when it's ready - which is usually within 5 minutes. There's usually plenty of seating available.
Their sandwiches are very good only cost $5.95. Their namesake sandwich, the Il Panino, contains proscuitto (imported from Italy), tomatoes, basil, and fresh homemade mozarella. It is probably the sandwich I order the most often. If you're vegetarian, you can opt for the Il Panino Lady, which omits the proscuitto. Their chicken parmesan sub is awesome - probably my favorite chicken parm sandwich in the city. The tomato sauce that accompanies the breaded chicken is fresh and not too acidic, adding balanced moisture to the sandwich. The chicken is piping hot and also tender and juicy. It's truly an amazing sandwich.
We always get the same salad when we go - the tomato basil and mozarella salad (Insalata Caprese at other restaurants). It's a simple salad - sliced tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, their own fresh homemade mozarella slices, and olive oil. I absolutely love their mozarella. Sometimes I wish the tomatoes were a bit more ripe - it feels like they use hard, refrigerated tomatoes. Besides that, however, the salad is quite enjoyable.
They also have excellent pizzas. We actually slightly prefer their pizzas to those at Basta Pasta, another restaurant that we love. Our favorite pizza is the artichoke, proscuitto, and mushroom pizza.
Pastas and Main Dishes
Of course, the hot dishes are excellent. Our favorite meat dish is the veal calabresello, which is breaded veal, spinach, and fontina cheese cooked with a fragrant marsala sauce over pasta. It's very flavorful. We also like the pesto gnocchi a lot. The texture of the gnocchi is nice and chewy and the pesto sauce has good flavor. They also offer a variety of seafood, such as clams, mussels, and shrimp. We've had the mussels with liguini, which was good.
Their lunch specials are usually a good value at $6.25. Bryan will often get those when he is working from home.
Over all, Il Panino is a great place to get good food at a great value. Although they don't have fresh pasta nor waitstaff, we still enjoy going there because the dishes are tasty, the food comes quickly, and the prices are very reasonable . . . oh, and it's a 3 minute walk from our house. :P