Mon-Fri, 9:30am-midnight; Thu-Fri, 9:30am-1am; Sat, 10:30am-1am; Sun, 10:30am-midnight
6 at Spring St.; J, M, Z at Bowery
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Canal St. to 14th St., Pitt St. to Hudson St.
Another stylish, pint-size panini parlor in SoHo has given the Underground Gourmet even less incentive to break out the George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine he got last Christmas (instead of the fancy Italian sandwich press he'd asked for). As at panini pioneers 'ino and Bar Veloce, the café's raison d'être is, as the name says, bread, and all that can be crammed between two slices and deliciously melded in a sandwich press. Neighboring Balthazar supplies the ciabatta rolls and baguettes—the crusty building blocks for a dozen or so terrific, beautifully presented Italian sandwiches. If the high-quality meats and cheeses aren't as ingeniously combined as at 'ino, the sandwiches are much heftier, good news for the U.G.'s panini-pessimist friend who gripes that "$7 is a lot for a sandwich the size of a Ritz cracker." Sandwich standouts include: Sicilian sardines with tomato and mayonnaise on a baguette with a hot and crispy crust but a soft, moist crumb; aged Genoa salami with nutty Taleggio and a swipe of olive tapenade on ciabatta; and rich Italian tuna with lemon dressing on ciabatta that might make you renounce Bumble Bee and Hellmann's on rye forever. All sandwiches come with a mesclun salad saved from the humdrum by a tasty soy-sauce-touched dressing. For carbophobes, there are more salads and a cutting-board plate of cured meats and cheeses. One downside: a paltry selection of wines.Weekend Brunch