Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Sandwich Doctors


That friendly face is Fabio, one half of the fantastic two-man team at the Isola del Panino. Delightfully dubbed “the sandwich doctors” by the students I used to work with, because of the white lab coats they don when they get down to work in their panino laboratory.

Isola del Panino (Sandwich Island) was born about two years ago in the area of Largo Argentina. It was a genius concept: make sandwiches, lots of them, and cheap. Yes, I know: there are snack bars everywhere, overflowing with panini and tramezzini, you say. But, allow me to tell you why I think the sandwich doctors are far superior to a mere bar.

1) A little haven of civilization in the crazy Roman world of elbowing to get to the front of the non-existent line. Please take note of the photo below:

Do you notice anything out of the ordinary? Look closely.

Yes, it is precisely the presence of an electronic numbering system. This may seem petty and insignificant to many of you, but if you live in Rome, you know how frustrating it can be that lines don’t exist, and when they do, some people feel completely entitled to blatantly cut in front of you. This phenomenon has so permeated my very being that the last time I was back in the States, waiting in line to pay for something, I saw a woman out of the corner of my eye getting close to me, and I physically shifted where I was standing to subtly block her from cutting me in line. Then, I came to my senses and realized that I was no longer in Rome, therefore, could rest assured that people would politely take their turn.

So, when Fabio and his partner Sergio installed the numbering system after about a month or two of total and complete mayhem at lunch hour, I was incredibly impressed. What a bold move in this world of line-cutters! In fact, the reaction of the newbies upon entering the shop for the first time is quite interesting. Many scoff at the fact that they have to “take a number,” but Fabio and Sergio are democratic strongholds in their world of sandwich-making.

2) The cost of a sandwich at Isola is a mere €2,30.

It used to be €2 when they first opened. The bar across the street, last time I checked, was charging no less than €10 (nearly $13) for “American breakfast,” consisting of: coffee, orange juice, and toast with jam. Let’s face it: in the historic center of Rome, the tourist is like an animal during hunting season, practically walking around with a flashing neon bull’s-eye posted on his forehead. In a sea of hungry hunters, Isola is a safe haven of honest service.

3) The panini are yummy!

Made to order, you choose the bread, the meat, the toppings: folks, it’s practically the Italian version of Subway, without the eyeball-scorching yellow. Or, you can order one of the many sandwiches ready to go in the display case. Sergio even speaks English because he lived in Australia for a while.

Take a look, then stop in and say hi. You just might see Fabio hanging out front, ready to perform sandwich surgery in his white lab coat.

8 comments:

FinnyKnits said...

Maybe if I've managed to burn out on scissor pizza, we can go visit this dudes in their lab coats for a panini. That case of sandwiches is simply...*drool*.

Ebony and Ivory said...

OMG!! I have to visit this place next time I go to Rome. I LOVE panini's and even better if they are inexpensive! Do you have the address?

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Oops, forgot to put the address. And no, in case anyone was wondering, I am NOT being paid to post these things ;-) Sometimes I might sound like it--I just get enthusiastic when I find an out of the ordinary place around here and I don't mind sharing the "secret."

OK, after that disclaimer:
Via di Torre Argentina 70

Stelle In Italia said...

shelley--i'm with you about getting enthusiastic about such places...i'd be enthusiastic too about finding a decent sandwich place in the middle of Rome that doesn't cost an arm and a leg! thanks for the address--next time i'm in Rome, i'm off to the sandwich doctors!

-jackie

Valerie said...

So just what's the difference between a panino and a tramezzino anyway? Still trying to figure those sandwiches out!

avery said...

Yum! I'm definately going to check them out. You can't go wrong with a good, cheap panini. The numbering system is a rare spectacle here that I really appreciate - I can't tell you how many times I've tried to be polite in line when people cut or elbow me and I just end up having to fight and push back. Not fun.

anton said...

When I was studying at La Sapienza and living at CIVIS, one of the first things my friend and I had to learn to get helped at the Ponte Milvio market was to say 'ci siamo noi!'

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Finny, yes, we can definitely go say hi!

Jackie, aren't you and Cyndi taking me to Hard Rock Cafe? ;-)

Valerie: Very good question! Panino is a sandwich while tramezzino is too, but a tramezzino is usually smaller and cheaper, it's a triangle sandwich made usually with white bread with the crusts cut off and has one or two ingredients (tuna, tomato, mozzarella, etc.) and a TON of mayo!

Avery: I knew you'd appreciate it too! You can vouch for me that numbering is rare around here.

Anton: Great phrase for anyone to use. And, La Sapienza? Let us all bow collectively in your honor for braving the largest university in Europe. YOU have some stories to tell! I am in awe, bravo!!