I have been to Italy three times, all before the age of 13 so my memories of the boot-shaped country are blurry and a little lost. Smell is supposed to be the number one trigger of a memory and I absolutely agree with that. But when smell, sound and taste are combined, they paint a picture for your sight and you can practically place yourself into the memory, even if you can’t actually see it in your mind.
When I step into Pappalecco, the smell of espresso, the sound of the milk frother and the taste of saltiness that touches your tongue seem to make my faint memories wobble from the back part of my brain into the forefront.
Pappalecco has two locations in San Diego. One in Hillcrest and another in Little Italy. Everything about the cafe feels authentic. The glass displays contain perfect little pre-made sandwiches and delicate pastries and cookies. There are mounds of creamy gelato and the employees all greet you with an enthusiastic “Ciao!”
Now I’m not writing this post to talk about teenage Lanie and her adventures in Italy, but about a beautifully complete panini. Panini’s have become a popular concept among restaurants and cafes and I have had my fair share. This panini however, is by far my favorite.
The Melanzana contains prosciutto, grilled eggplant, fresh mozzarella, basil, and an herbed aioli. The ingredients inside are pressed together and each of the different flavors are blended to make each bite perfection. The saltiness of the prosciutto combined with the stringy texture of the eggplant is balanced by the creamy mozzarella and the fresh taste of the basil. The whole panini is drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction that really brings the whole dish together. The rich inside of the panini are paired with a crusty bread that really makes the sandwich stand apart from most impostors. It is not spungy like most panini’s but rather crunchy and chewy in all the right parts. Before placing the panini in the press, they brush the outside with oil and dust it with salt and freshly cracked pepper which is my favorite part. It gives you an excuse to lick your fingers at the end of the meal because, what’s the point of eating with your hands if you can’t enjoy every last taste.