Every cuisine that bakes bread has developed some variation on the sandwich, and Italian cuisine is no exception. However, only the Italian panini has become such a hit that it now rivals classics like spaghetti and meatballs in popularity on restaurant menus. What makes the panini so special?
Pressed to Perfection
Pressing a sandwich concentrates its flavors. Cheese melds with meats and vegetables. Herbs release their flavor into the surrounding sandwich fillings. Bread becomes toasty and crisp. It’s almost as magical a transformation as turning plain carbon into a sparkling diamond through pressure, albeit with much less force. A compact panini is also easier to eat than a thick sandwich, making it a great choice for a quick and hearty lunch. You want to eat your sandwich, not wear it, and a panini’s the perfect portable meal.
The secret to a great panini lies in the pressing; the chef must press firmly enough to blend flavors, but not so firmly that juices leave tender fillings like homemade sausage or roasted chicken. More delicate ingredients like eggplant, broccoli rabe and portobello mushrooms take a lighter hand with the press than stacks of sliced ham and provolone cheese. Knowing how far to go with the panini press is as much an art as a science, but a great panini is worth that attention to detail.
Some Like It Hot
Heat is another vital element to making the perfect panini. Without it, you’d just have a flat sandwich. It’s heat that toasts the bread, adding another layer of flavor to the rich assortment of tastes that comprise a well-made panini. That heat melts cheese, releases the volatile flavors in herbs and adds savor to meats. Hot food feels more satisfying, yet a panini still feels light enough to enjoy for lunch.
While its outer surfaces turn crisp in the heated press, the inner surfaces of the bread become infused with flavors from the meats or vegetables in the sandwich. Heat keeps the bread from softening under pressure, creating a crunchy crust around the sandwich that makes it easier to eat while adding flavor. Thick slices of Italian bread do more than hold a panini together; they’re an important element in the sandwich’s taste too. Toasting in the panini press brings out the full flavor of a robust Italian loaf.
Fillings and Flavors
Like any sandwich, the panini is incredibly versatile. Fill it with saucy meatballs, homemade sausage or a juicy chicken cutlet, and it becomes substantial enough for a hearty dinner. When it’s stuffed with roasted vegetables or grilled shrimp, it’s a satisfying lunch. Confirmed meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans may not share many favorite dishes, but they can all agree on one thing: a panini is always welcome. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it in a panini.
Come to Carlino’s for lunch or dinner and tell us how you’d like your panini today. We’ll make it to order. After one bite, you’ll know what’s so special about a great panini.
Carlo, Wali and all your friends at Carlino’sTweet read more
When Rob Petrone, the Emmy award-winning host of FiOS1′s “Restaurant Hunter,” got a letter proclaiming Carlino’s food “the best Italian food in the world,” he took it as a challenge that he had to taste for himself. After sampling our veal pizzaiola and house-made sausage with broccoli rabe as chef and owner Carlo Corteo looked on, the food critic certainly looked convinced. We’d like to invite you to find out what makes Carlino’s so special too. If you missed it during its original airing, get a glimpse behind the scenes in Carlino’s kitchen on this episode of “Restaurant Hunter” on our Gallery page.
Carlo spent the first fourteen years of his life in Monte di Procida, a town just outside of Naples, Italy. He’s designed Carlino’s menu to reflect the skills he learned and the tastes he loved from his boyhood. “I try to remember the taste that my mother put into every one of her dishes,” he told Rob Petrone.
The bold, bright flavors of the Neapolitan coast come from simple, but exquisitely fresh ingredients. Watch Carlino’s chefs prepare tangy veal pizzaiola from fresh, ripe tomatoes and sweet, spicy basil. Thin-sliced veal gets a light coating of flour, salt and pepper before nestling in the pan next to the tomatoes until it’s crisp and redolent of all the rich flavors in the sauce. As Carlo notes, “It’s all in how you put it together,” and in the right hands, these simple ingredients become a savory memory of home.
You’ll also learn about another Italian classic that distinguishes Carlino’s: homemade sausage. The perfect Italian sausage requires balance between aromatic fennel seeds, black pepper and succulent meat. Carlino’s take on sausage adds a fourth flavor note that brings all the others into harmony: a dry white wine. The sausage rests in the refrigerator for 24 hours after making it to let all the flavors blend; then it’s sliced and cooked to order. Our rustic presentation of sausage with broccoli rabe and rigatoni tastes as good as it looks on “Restaurant Hunter,” but you’ll also find our sausage makes a perfect pairing with peppers or adorning a pizza.
With or without our homemade sausage, pizza is another one of our specialties. Naples invented pizza, so it’s no wonder that Carlo wants to do justice to one of the world’s most popular foods. For two decades, Long Island residents have loved Carlino’s grandma pizza with its crisp, thin crust and its light marinara sauce; watch it come out of the oven on our “Restaurant Hunter” segment, and you’ll see why it’s so beloved. It tastes even better than it looks, but don’t take our word for it – try it for yourself.
Come to Carlino’s and find out why the “Restaurant Hunter” found just what he wanted!Tweet read more
When you think of a brilliant red vegetable that’s synonymous with Italian cuisine, you undoubtedly think first of tomatoes. While that’s certainly true, another bright red beauty also gives Italian dishes their character: peppers. You’ll see them in the form of spicy red pepper flakes to shake on pizza or in their sweet green form with sausages on a sandwich. Pickled, they accompany sandwiches and salads. Whether roasted, marinated or fresh, this New World vegetable has found a new home in the venerable traditions of Italian cooking.
Sweet Peppers Green, yellow or red bell peppers are the surprisingly sweet heart of many savory Italian dishes. Called peperone in Italian, these mild vegetables impart a bright flavor that complements spicy Italian sausage. Pizzas with sausage and peppers are popular for a reason; the sweetness of the peppers makes a good foil for aromatic fennel and black pepper in the sausage.
Fresh bell peppers also roast and simmer beautifully. As they roast, their bright, sharp taste mellows into a softer, fuller flavor that goes well with creamy mozzarella, eggplant or cured meats like salami and pepperoni. You may not instantly recognize their characteristic flavor in a rich sauce, but chances are they’re there; they contribute an underlying sweetness to many tomato-based sauces.
Yellow peperoncini are almost always pickled to enhance their taste. Although a few kinds of peperoncini have a bit of warmth to them, they’re far closer to mild bell peppers than to their spicier cousins like pimento and cayenne peppers. The salt and vinegar brining liquid adds flavor while preserving the peppers’ fresh taste.
Even a pepperoni pizza couldn’t happen without peppers. One of the characteristic flavors of pizza’s perfect partner is paprika. The spice comes from powdered sweet red peppers, and they’re responsible for the bright orange-red hue of pepperoni slices.
Hot Peppers Italians aren’t averse to a little heat on the plate. Hot cherry peppers are a spicy accompaniment for sweet sausage or mild roasted vegetables if you have a taste for something with a kick to it. You’ll often find these spicy pimento peppers pickled with garlic and spices or marinated in oil to concentrate their flavor. Cherry peppers are great for waking up a simple sandwich or salad.
Plenty of pizza connoisseurs wouldn’t dream of enjoying a slice without a generous sprinkling of hot red pepper flakes. The red pepper shaker that graces pizzeria tables doesn’t contain just one kind of pepper; the coarsely ground spice is a mixture of a number of pepper types you might not associate with Italian food. The cayenne peppers found in Cajun dishes and the ancho chilies popular in Mexican food contribute heat and flavor to the blend; bell peppers and pimentos add sweetness.
Those pepper flakes do more than pep up a pizza. They can also add a new dimension to herbed olive oil for dipping bread or spice a sandwich loaded with meatballs or sausage.
Peppers aren’t likely to unseat tomatoes as the king of the Italian kitchen, but they’ve certainly earned their place as the second most popular Italian vegetable. Pick a pepper to enjoy on your pizza or sandwich; you’ll see why they’re so beloved in Italy too.Tweet read more