In this great city of ours, one could eat a different sandwich every day of the year—so that's what we'll do. Here's A Sandwich a Day, our daily look at sandwiches around New York. Got a sandwich we should check out? Let us know. —The Mgmt.
Might as well wrap up Eataly week here, no? Batali and Bastianich's Italian mega-emporium may end up a tourist magnet, a supermarket, and a food gawker destination—but it's also a new lunch spot in the middle of Flatiron officeland. And of Eataly's stalls, there's nowhere more suited for a time-pressed lunch run than the paninoteca.
Which meant, as of 1:00pm yesterday, the line for a sandwich was about 40 people deep. But it moved faster than I'd expected; I had four panini in hand within twenty minutes. Were they worth the wait?
Yes... and no.
The cold option we tried, prosciutto di Parma ($4.80), was my least favorite; each slice of crusty bread was so thick that the two together were difficult to wrap my mouth around. It's good bread, and fantastic prosciutto—a little nutty, soft and tender, not chewy in the slightest; they didn't skip on the meat, either. But it's hard to enjoy a sandwich that's a project to bite through.
The hot panini are all served on Ligurian focaccia, carted over from Eataly's bakery just a few stalls down. That bread is a flattish, crusty loaf that's really quite a perfect delivery vehicle for these sort of sparingly portioned, intensely flavored fillings. The mushrooms of the funghi and Taleggio ($6.80) still had a bit of a bite, an earthy pair for the funky cradle of softened cheese; the coppa, pickled hot peppers, and mizuna ($8.80) had a nice spicy burn on top of the fatty meat and peppery green. The bresaola ($8.80) was also a well-constructed sandwich, though I couldn't make out any element of the promised arugula pesto besides, well, arugula.
The main problem? They're just too small. Eataly's entire project seems to be the marrying of American and Italian traditions: coffee is of the espresso bar, grab-and-go model, but there's still some seating and drip coffee; Italian cured meats are highlighted, but there are some domestic products, too. I'm well-aware that "This sandwich is too small!" may be the most tired American protest imaginable. But I'm a light luncher, and even I found this palm-sized skinny sandwiches too light. Particularly for the price.
My experiences at Eataly, thus far, have not been defined by sticker shock. Coffee is no more expensive than at Starbucks; produce is, to a large extent, cheaper than Whole Foods or comparable markets; Adam found the pizza prices quite fair.
These sandwiches, though? They're quite good. They're not worth nine dollars.