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Panino's

179 Main St., Monroe, CT - (203) 452-5557
Posted By Michael Stern on 2/26/2012 10:14:00 AM
Here's proof, once more, that Route 25 from Bridgeport to Newtown is a golden path of good eats through southwestern Connecticut. Panino's is a strip-mall restaurant that doesn't look all that special when you drive past, but inside, the pizzas, grinders, and specialty panini sandwiches are well worth a stop.

Panino is the name for a house-baked flatbread similar to focaccia but lighter and more delicate. It is served in small triangles before dinner (with bowls of olive oil for dipping); and big rounds of it serve as the foundation for specialty sandwiches. Among these are Ischia, which is grilled chicken, Parma (proscuitto and mozzarella), and quattro stagioni (eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and mozarella with pesto mayonnaise).

We were especially taken by the delicious flavor of Panino's grilled chicken in the Ischia. Tipster Ed Steinerts, who recommended Panino's to us in the first place, said that he prefers the Blue Grotto wedge (a.k.a. sub sandwich): grilled chicken with melted gorgonzola. Ed wrote that Panino's is "the only place I've been where the grilled chicken actually tastes grilled." Amen to that!

"Old fashioned and gourmet," is how the menu describes Panino's cuisine, meaning that the kitchen's repertoire is broad. It is possible to come here for a modest wrap or grinder or a whole meal of chicken Marsala or veal Parmigiana. Pizza topping possibilities range from classic pizza-parlor ingredients (sausage, peppers, etc.) to such luxuries as baby clams and sundried tomatoes.

A cozy place with nice varnished wood tables and evocative art on the wall, Panino's has a semi-open kitchen where, from the order counter, you can watch the cooks flatten rounds of dough and expertly construct pizzas.

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Scorecard

4 - Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
Overall: One of the Best - Worth a Trip
homemade bread
pizza
Calamari Balsamico
Chicken Parmesan
Panini sandwich
Louie Primavera
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Panini's Ischia: grilled chicken, avocado, greens, and tomato with honey mustard on house-made panino bread
"Panini's Ischia: grilled chicken, avocado, greens, and tomato with honey mustard on house-made panino bread"
Michael Stern





Regular, crisp-fried calamari is available, but Panino's also offers this tantalizing gloss on the recipe, for which the little fried squid hoops are sopped with a syrupy balsamic vinegar reduction. Powerful stuff, and good!
"Regular, crisp-fried calamari is available, but Panino's also offers this tantalizing gloss on the recipe, for which the little fried squid hoops are sopped with a syrupy balsamic vinegar reduction. Powerful stuff, and good!"
Michael Stern


Louie Primavera is a bounty of vegetables, including garlic, atop angel hair pasta.
"Louie Primavera is a bounty of vegetables, including garlic, atop angel hair pasta."
Michael Stern


The 'Parma' is leaves of proscuitto, slices of fresh mozzarella, and roasted red peppers drizzled with zesty balsamic vinegar. What a nice sandwich!
"The 'Parma' is leaves of proscuitto, slices of fresh mozzarella, and roasted red peppers drizzled with zesty balsamic vinegar. What a nice sandwich!"
Michael Stern


Looking like an ordinary strip-mall restaurant, Panino's is easy to miss as you drive past. Inside, it's a surprisingly good-looking place with mighty good-tasting food.
"Looking like an ordinary strip-mall restaurant, Panino's is easy to miss as you drive past. Inside, it's a surprisingly good-looking place with mighty good-tasting food."
Michael Stern


Before the meal is served, tables are presented with a basket of tender-crumb panino bread and a dipping bowl of olive oil laced with briney slices of black olive.
"Before the meal is served, tables are presented with a basket of tender-crumb panino bread and a dipping bowl of olive oil laced with briney slices of black olive."
Michael Stern


This lovely salad is made of baby spinach leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, lots of chevre, and slices of smoky grilled eggplant, all dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.
"This lovely salad is made of baby spinach leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, lots of chevre, and slices of smoky grilled eggplant, all dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette."
Michael Stern


The Ischia sandwich is presented in quarters on a plate spangled with herbs and grated cheese.
"The Ischia sandwich is presented in quarters on a plate spangled with herbs and grated cheese."
Michael Stern


Unless you are really, really hungry, this chicken parmesan is enough for a couple of main courses.
"Unless you are really, really hungry, this chicken parmesan is enough for a couple of main courses."
Michael Stern


Mea culpa! I was so hungry, and Panino's bread is so excellent -- still oven-warm -- that I cleaned out the basked and sopped up the last of the delicious olive slurry that comes for bread dipping. Only then did I remember my duty to take a picture: bad journalism, but a wonderful way to begin a meal.
"Mea culpa! I was so hungry, and Panino's bread is so excellent -- still oven-warm -- that I cleaned out the basked and sopped up the last of the delicious olive slurry that comes for bread dipping. Only then did I remember my duty to take a picture: bad journalism, but a wonderful way to begin a meal."
Michael Stern



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