I was never really a big fan of the panini as a possible sandwich substitute, until now. As you can imagine, I’m kind of an old fashioned dude. I like my meat and cheese slapped between the bread of a potato bun or hero roll, rather than squished down and toasted. After all, I like to preserve the sanctity of the inside of my mouth, sans cuts and scrapes, and avoid getting ripped to shreds in there from hard, crispy bread. French bread, for example. I love it to death, but as a sandwich bread it is borderline awful (maybe with the exception of a Cuban or Banh Mi). Paninis always just fell into that realm for me. “It’s toasted and crispy, so it will probably rip my mouth apart.” That was the inner monologue.
Enter Jonny Panini to change my mind. This joint makes amazing panini bread that has a supple softness inside to complement the outer crisped and toasted exterior. It’s almost like a thin version of focaccia bread, or even like a pizza crust. My panini mouth cut fears are now significantly abated.
Add to that a plethora of fine, quality Italian ingredients – like aged cheeses, fresh tomatoes, bright greens and top notch prosciutto – and you have the makings of some of the best panini sandwiches this city has to offer.
Jonny himself has decades of experience in the restaurant business. He meets his customers with a warm, vivacious and friendly personality. He exudes passion for his food, and it permeates the establishment. You feel like you’ve known Jonny all your life when you speak to him, and he knows you as well. He truly does; at least as far as your taste buds are concerned.
His menu of 18 panini sandwiches are static items that can not be swapped around or substituted. Oh, did you want the balsamic reduction on your #3 but it’s only offered on #1? Too bad. It’s on #1 and not #3 for a reason, and when you try #3 you’ll know it’s not meant to be there. That’s the kind of knowledge I’m talking about. And confidence. Jonny knows what works. Trust him. I did.
I came in with a gang of foodies for a special press tasting, so we tried a few things:
#1: Prosciutto e Mozzarella Panini ($13)
Prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, shaved parmigiano and tomato with a balsamic reduction. This was my favorite of the three paninis we tried. It just really popped for me.
#2: Prosciutto e Provolone Panini ($11)
Prosciutto, sharp provolone cheese, tomato and lettuce with house made basil pesto. Jonny makes the pesto authentic to how his kin made it back in Italy. Family secret!
#9: Turkey e Avocado Panini ($11)
This is the only panini that isn’t pressed, toasted and heated. Why? Because Jonny doesn’t want to ruin the avocado. Smart, and like I said above: Trust in Jonny’s expertise. I do hate warm avocado, as a matter of fact. Anyway, the sandwich contains turkey, lettuce, tomato and avocado with a jalapeno aioli.
The first of it’s kind, the Prosciurger is Jonny’s trademarked burger patty, which is made entirely from ground prosciutto, mortadella and ham. It’s topped with juicy tomato, crisp lettuce, fresh melted mozzarella and an aioli that is to die for – all sandwiched in a soft, yet sturdy, pretzel bun.
I was a little worried that the texture of the patty would be rubbery and snappy, almost like a sausage or ham steak, but it wasn’t. It really had a decent crumble and savory bite to it. And it wasn’t overly salty, as one might expect with a patty made entirely from prosciutto and cured meats. It was just right.
Absolute heaven. I highly recommend this unique and inventive burger. Go get it now!
493A 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10018