People in Milan consider lunchtime a serious thing. For a real connection with the locals, you can’t ignore the crowd at Panino Giusto at noon. Kids in sneakers and T-shirts and businesspeople in suits are queued up for a pressed sandwich with classically Italian flavors. Think: prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, and salame di Felino.
The same inclusive, boisterous vibe is found in Cupertino, at the now-international chain’s first U.S. location. A few steps from the Apple headquarters, the Italian group proclaims the newest location offers the same ingredients and quality as in Italy.
At the top of our list are the vegetarian Zorba with Scamorza, grilled eggplant, extra virgin olive oil, pesto, and tomato; or the Milano 2015, designed by Michelin-starred chef Claudio Sadler for the World Expo 2015 with 26-month Parma, artichoke cream, Parmigiano Reggiano cream, and Sadler’s secret ingredient: balsamic vinegar flakes.
Ingredients are imported from Italy and sourced seasonally from California. “We want people here in Silicon Valley to have the same exact experience as they do in Milan,” explains CEO Antonio Civita.
Located in the new Main Street complex, the space has sleek Italian design with a rustic touch. Legs of prosciutto hang inside a big fridge in the main room. They aren’t just for display; the kitchen slices them fresh for every single order. The restaurant also features an outdoor seating area and is open for lunch and dinner. We think it is an ideal spot for an aperitivo. As for drinks, the menu offers fresh pressed juice and an array of Italian wines, such as I Fiori, a Sardinian white wine from Pala, and Costaripa Rosamara Rosé.
Panino Giusto was founded in 1979 as the local alternative to the trattoria, a sit-down restaurant for a full meal. Here, workers and students can have a lighter bite with all the right nutrients and finish with a good espresso. For this location, the company partnered with Aaron Suen of Bite, the parent company of several burgeoning chains (Yo Mama, Triple O’s, and Grom). Suen is also involved in the Panino Giusto's operations in Hong Kong.
“I discovered the restaurant in Porto Cervo, in Sardinia, during a vacation,” Suen says. “We ended up going there every day for lunch. I thought this is something that will really work out in California.” With fresh ingredients and a laid-back attitude, we don’t doubt it either.