After some desktop research, I learned that panini means rolls or little breads. In Italy, the word is synonymous with sandwiches. Italians and Europeans in general savour panini as light snacks between meals or as a prelude to meals. Ok, that sets the background although to me, panini would make a light but satisfying meal when accompanied with side salads and soups.
My first authentic, or what I hoped to be, paniniwas eaten during my trip to Europe last May. When in Rome, act as the Romans do, so acting as if it was an everyday thing for me, I boldly placed an order for one at a neighbourhood cafe, where else but in Rome. To be frank, I had no idea what I had ordered; I just pointed to the display. How I derived at my choice was quite simple: I was sucked in by the firm grill marks, which somehow leaves me with special impressions of "hand made" and "personalised" qualities.
First bite into the sandwich was indescribable. I started to marvel at the simplicity of the toasted sandwich, - crusty on the outside yet warm and sticky from the melting mozzarella cheese and the added color by the chopped spinach. To me, the good grill marks resulted in a crisp crust and that was half the battle won there. Now, I salivate just by thinking of it.
So when I visited Ricciotti Italian Deli & Pastry a couple of nights ago, I knew I wanted a panini without second thoughts. The only choice I had to make was the filling. Finally, I decided on the "orto". What arrived was a panini made on fresh, crusty Italian bread, although I would prefer the bread to be slightly thinner, and filled with grilled peppers and aubergine and a generous spreading of basil pesto, albeit it was just on one side. The combination of the crisp crust and the moisten-by-pesto-spread inside, was an delightful one. The first bite was familiar and brought on a crackle and instantly, fond memories of my backpacking trip were revived! To think I was actually sick of all sandwiches by the time I touched down into Singapore. I was all breaded-out by the ridiculous consumption of the yeasty-wonder, existing in all sorts of variety. How can I be in Europe and not eat the origins of good bread? Hehe, other than the fact that I was travelling on a tight, tight budget. I could not believe I was actually sandwiched-out! No way! Biting into my first panini in Singapore reminded me how much I luuurrvveee bread! It made me wonder again, if I had been born in the wrong geographical region, because in Singapore, rice was the staple and not bread. Nonetheless, I am glad I can find some good bread and sandwiches in Singapore now.
Although this panini cannot compare to the one I had in Rome, it was a good substitution. Dining al-fresco by the Singapore river is also an added luxury. A lazy afternoon, with a good book in hand and J by my side, topped off with a cup of cappuccino and a freshly made Italian pastry, who is to say I'm not in Rome?