Mon-Fri, 8am-11pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-10pm
1 at 116th St.-Columbia University; A, B, C, D at 125th St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
110th St. to 125th St., Morningside Dr. to Riverside Dr.
The theme may be soccer, with a flat-screen TV showing games and highlights, but only occasional sports fans appear to cheer, ridicule, or pound back beers. That's probably because loud music, most often incongruous hip-hop, disturbs the visual attempt at Italian fantasy. Instead, people come for panini. Unlike the now-ubiquitous impostors, made with sliced bread compacted by a hot press, this shop emulates the real Italian deal, pressing stocky, torpedo-shaped rolls just long enough to get the bread crusty— but not long enough to wilt the peppery arugula that sparks a prosciutto and brie sandwich, dressed with and sundried tomato vinaigrette. The heat does, however, melt the rich cheese, which alchemically mingles with the vinaigrette to morph into an enchanting condiment, something akin to hot mayo. Simpler sandwiches are just as good. Salty, rich mortadella teams up with spicy pickled peppers and mustard; first-rate Italian tuna and red onion are doused with aromatic olive oil. Salads, cold plates, and nightly main dishes aren't nearly as tempting. Hearts of palm with lettuce and grape tomatoes, for instance, is fine, but the plasticky Parmesan showered on top is a deal breaker. Conversely, mysteriously wan tomatoes share a plate with basil and excellent mozzarella so creamy you won't care what kind of music's playing—or who’s won the World Cup.Recommended Dishes
Chicco, $8.75; luciana, $7.75; paola, $9.50