The Underrated Gem of Italian Cuisine

What do you think of when you hear the words “Italian Cuisine?” If you’re thinking of anything other than the fresh, savory smell of a warm panino, I’m here to enlighten you.

First, before you ask, it’s not a “panini.” Fun fact: the word “panini” is plural for “panino.” One panino, two panini. Americans use the word panini to mean a warm-pressed sandwich, but this isn’t true in its traditional context!

Now, where are the best places to get a panino in Florence, Italy?? Here are my top places that I’ve been to so far, in no particular order.

1. Budellino

This small shop offers any kind of sandwich you’d like, customized how you want it. While they do have a menu with specialty sandwiches listed, the counter shows off all of the homemade sauces and spreads, meats and fresh baked bread that can be combined in a personalized manner. The focaccia bread is always toasted to perfection, covered in EV olive oil and salted. They cut the meat fresh off the cutter for you to watch. Nothing better.

I ordered a salami sandwich with a tomato and cheese spread (highly recommend – it was both sweet & salty) and fresh (instead of sun-dried) tomatoes. The simple combination was delicious. They also have a four-cheese sauce that is amazing on any sandwich. Anything with pecorino in it will always be a go-to of mine.

2. Pino’s Sandwiches – Salumeria Verdi

Pino’s is such a charm! This family-owned sandwich shop has it all. Seriously. The menu has sandwiches bursting with countless sauces, flavors and fresh meats. The sandwiches on the menu all fall under “rich,” “classic,” “special,” or vegetarian, with anything from turkey to breaded chicken, to spicy salami to eggplant.

The “Tuscan” panino, with salami, fontina cheese, fresh tomatoes and pesto was the first sandwich I ordered at Pino’s, and I was immediately attracted to this place. Every sandwich I’ve gotten since then has lived up to it. The “Chicken Best,” with a breaded chicken cutlet, mozzarella, garlic sauce and hot sauce, has been a favorite for everyone I know that has tried Pino’s.

The sandwiches (and service!) are certainly unlike any other shop here in Florence. Can’t set your heart on just one sandwich? Here’s the secret… ask Pino to make a surprise one for you, or customize your own. There’s no bad combo here.

Don’t forget to grab a punch card, too! Buy a few sandwiches and you’ll be halfway to a free one 🙂

3. All’antico Vinaio

This place speaks for itself, with a half-mile long line down Via dei Neri. This shop was the number one most reviewed place in the world in 2014. The sandwiches are absolutely HUGE in size and only 6 Euros. All’antico shops have also opened in NYC and Los Angeles now, becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

La Summer is a classic favorite, with prosciutto, fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Another less popular favorite that I’ve tried and LOVED was La Joe Bastianich. It isn’t on the “Top 5” menu that’s posted outside the shop, but it is on the original menu. This panino has Tuscan bacon (cured, not cooked), pecorino cream cheese and rocket salad in it. That was the first time I had tried bacon prepared that way, but it was great. I’m a huge fan.

“The Boss” as we call it, or “La Schiacciata del Boss,” is also a great choice if you like truffle cream. There’s really no bad sandwich here, and it’s the best bang for your buck. Don’t feel like waiting in line? You can place your order ahead, or even get delivery!

4. I Fratellini

This place has everything you’d want on a sandwich for a relatively cheap price. It’s the perfect spot for a quick lunch stop, in a central location of the city. The workers at the counter are always so sweet and welcoming, and no worries if you don’t know Italian! The menu is posted on either side of the window, as well as inside for easy reference.

The variety is great, with 30 total sandwiches on the menu. My favorite panino here so far is #15, Tuscan salami with fennel cream cheese. Sounds simple, right? I don’t know what makes it so good, but I’ve gotten it at least 3 times now. Besides cream cheese, many of the sandwiches also have a sauce of some sort, such as white truffle cream, salsa verde (it’s nowhere like the Mexican salsa you may know of), hot sauce or pesto. For only 4 Euros, these sandwiches never disappoint. Another personal favorite is #1, prosciutto with goat cheese and arugula. YUM!

I don’t think I expected sandwiches to be my most-consumed food while in Italy so far, but am I disappointed? Not at all! I don’t think I can go back to daily turkey and cheese sandwiches anytime soon.

Yours Truly,

Cat Taylor

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