I call them mouth bruisers.
Crusty paninis so brittle and crisp, they’ll scrape the roof of your mouth. Nobody should risk a mouth injury while eating a sandwich. Paninis are on menus all over town and there’s a good reason for that. The panini grill is a convenient piece of kitchen equipment. It makes a gooey, grilled sandwich with little tending, but requires good timing.
And that’s where some restaurants derail: timing. Too long on the press and the crust becomes too crunchy; the interior so compressed, the ingredients are no longer individual components. Paninis for me are best when there’s a fair ratio between ingredients and a separation between the layers. I still want to be able to identify the spinach on a mozzarella-ham panini, I don’t want it to become a slimy layer of Army green disaster between meat and cheese.
At Villa Caffe & Imbibery, a nearly two-month-old restaurant located near the Greater Tacoma Convention Center, the paninis are pillowy soft, with separation and distinguishable layers. The bread is kissed, but not overly compressed by the panini grill. The grill marks are there, but there are not crunchy, mouth-bruising peaks and valleys. In the kitchen is someone who knows how to craft a sandwich.
Villa Caffe owner and chef Robyn Murphy uses as her foundation the soft and airy panino roll from Essential Baking Company, a Seattle bakery with a mission statement to bake organic. Read more »