Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Six Days of Comfort Food: Day Two

A panini in Italy isn't always a panini in North America. In fact, panini (multiple) are what you get when you have more than one panino (singular), and this word means 'sandwich.' Just any ordinary sandwich, whether it be a cold ham and cheese or something grilled like you get back home. Language lesson aside, if you pick the right ones, Italian sandwiches can be the perfect comfort food on a cold, drizzly day.

Last week during dinner with some Italian friends, we were advised that before leaving Parma we must try two panini in particular. After a lazy morning indoors, we decided that this afternoon we would bundle up, go for a walk, and fulfill our promise to seek these sandwiches out.

First stop: Enoteca Fontana, for The Principe (Prince) Panino. Judging by the number of dark wool coats we battled through to get to the counter, every businessman on Via Farini and beyond come here for lunch. I ordered from the nine-armed bartender, then elbowed my way over to the sandwich counter and passed off my receipt to the equally-busy panini maker.

A few minutes later we held The Principe in our hands: generous slices of prosciutto and parmigiano grilled between two slices of oily focaccia, exactly the sort of sandwich you'd expect in Italy, especially Emilia-Romagna. It was a salt feast, and very satisfying.

Second Stop: Pepen, for the Spacca Balli (spelled wrong I'm sure, but literally translated as "ball-buster.") Apparently this has something to do with the number of ingredients in it, hence making it a difficult order. There weren't actually that many though, but who knows. Can't argue with tradition.

We again fought our way into the crowded shop, ordered, and were handed a toasted roll filled with roast pork, lettuce, tomato, spicy ketchup and mayo. It was really good, though not as good as when Kirsten pointed out the shop 'decorations' on the wall behind the sandwich counter. These were several posters of naked women, staring down at the cutting boards below and providing sexy inspiration for the men at work. It must be effective, because the guys at Pepen were super cheerful.

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