Paninoteca by Scarpetta
Despite being relatively close to Bay Cities Italian Deli, the Godmother of Italian sandwich shops on the Westside, I was still disappointed when Santa Monica’s Ciboteca, from the folks behind Piccolo and Hostaria del Piccolo, closed last winter after opening just earlier that year. Coincidentally, another Italian sandwich shop backed by a higher-end Italian restaurant, in this case Scott Conant’s Scarpetta in Beverly Hills, had also opened last year, though a little bit out of what I’d consider the Westside. Named Paninoteca, this takeout counter quickly gained popularity with surrounding businesses and visiting tourists with their well-constructed sandwiches made from high quality ingredients.
[If you’re curious, the suffix -teca in this context means a shop that specializes in a particular item (like the Japanese -ya in sushi-ya and ramen-ya), in this case panino, or “sandwich” in Italian. Cibo means “food” in Italian, which makes sense since Ciboteca was to also function as a market for imported Italian grocery items.]
A few weeks ago, I was invited to try Paninoteca’s lunch offerings. I brought my kids, as well as my sister and my nephew, who were in town visiting. We dined al fresco, in the courtyard shared by the Montage Beverly Hills hotel, of which Scarpetta and Paninoteca are a part, and the Bouchon restaurant and bakery, among other businesses.
We started off with some drinks that were probably best described as agua fresca, the refreshing, non-carbonated soft drinks that are often fruit-based but not as sweet as full-on juices. (Is there’s an equivalent to agua fresca in Italian cuisine?) Paninoteca has some interesting but delicious flavor combinations, including Kale & Apple, Pineapple & Basil, and Blood Orange & Tarragon.
The menu at Paninoteca has a decent variety of sandwiches, a handful of salads, and some simple sides. There’s probably something for everyone, including pescatarians and vegetarians, but vegans may have a little difficulty. Since we wanted to get a good idea of their range, we sampled four different sandwiches. Despite the what most Americans think of when they hear “panino” (or, more likely, “panini”), and unlike the sandwiches at Ciboteca, the ones at Paninoteca are not grilled in a press. Rather, it’s just a traditional sandwich, with the “filling” in between the two halves of a cut loaf of great, rustic Italian bread.
My sister ordered the Grilled Eggplant with buffalo mozarella, basil pesto, and tomato purée. While not my particular cup of tea, it’s a great choice for vegetarians. My older daughter ordered the Chicken “Parmigiano” with burrata and smoked tomatoes, which was a little disappointing. The breading around the cutlet was a little on the thick side, while the chicken was a tad dry. We didn’t really care for the smoked tomato sauce either.
I ordered the Padrino Hero for my younger daughter, the prosciutto fiend. In addition to the rich Italian ham, the sandwich came with mortadella, salami, provolone, Italian vinaigrette. Basically the archetypal “Italian combo” sandwich, except that the “cold cuts” were probably higher quality—they tasted so—and presumably imported from Italy. I really enjoyed the bites I was able to steal away from my daughter.
I couldn’t pass up the Porchetta for myself, with its spiced pork belly, broccoli rabe pesto, and a fried hen egg. I try not to be too hyperbolic in my reviews here, so I hope I’m not “crying wolf” when I say this was probably the best sandwich I’ve had in a long time. The pork was moist and tender, and the flavors of all of the ingredients played off each other. I didn’t even mind the lack of a runny yolk in the fried egg. The only fault I could find with it was that one fried egg didn’t provide enough “coverage” for a sandwich at was at least 14″ long.
Each sandwich came with a decent portion of house-made chips, dressed simply with some sea salt and some basil or sage leaves that were fried with the chips. As an additional side, we ordered the Farro & Root Vegetables, with oven dried tomatoes, artichokes & cauliflower. I actually didn’t get a chance to try this, but others seemed to like it.
Of course, we couldn’t skip desserts, so we had two of their Cannoli, with a Nutella and ricotta filling, and hazelnuts, except we ordered one without hazelnuts for my younger daughter—yes, she did know Nutella is made with it, she just didn’t want it sprinkled on. Again, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, and with full admission that I am not a cannolo aficionado, it was probably the best cannoli I’ve had, with thick yet crisp shells, and an extremely smooth, creamy filling.
While I was 50/50 on the sandwiches we tried at Paninoteca, the two I did like I really liked! Unfortunately, Paninoteca is too far out of the way to make it on my regular lunch rotation. However, if I were in the area when they’re open—only 11 AM to 3 PM, and only on weekdays—I would not hesitate to grab a porchetta sandwich to-go!
Disclosure: As mentioned above, I was invited to try Paninoteca, and our meal was hosted. All opinions, as always, are my own.
Paninoteca by Scarpetta
225 N Cañon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212