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.