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Ono, You Know

Paninis With Pizazz!

By Alana Folen Photos By Leah Friel
February 10, 2013

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Sandwiches are the standard for an easy and filling lunch option, but this week, Ono readers, I’ve upped my expectations and a good old-fashioned sandwich just won’t do the trick this time. It’s time to elevate the everyday sandwich with a little heat and the perfect combination of ingredients. The following restaurants have certainly paved the way for the beloved panini — a hot, pressed sandwich, which originated in Italy.

This week, I’ve learned the many secrets to building a better sandwich — one that centers around exceptional bread, melted cheeses, tender morsels of meaty goodness, fresh and vibrant veggies, and that special sauce. Talk about paninis dressed to the nines.

Stomachs will be grumbling, so let’s waste no time and begin to eat our way to panini heaven. Dig right in because paninis with pizazz are what it’s all about!

Kit n Kitchen

A wave of Euro-Asian fusion sweeps you away at Kit n Kitchen on University Avenue, where owners and husband-and-wife duo Kit and May Yiu effortlessly combine the best of both culinary worlds. And being that I’m of Asian and European heritage, I can’t help but be a bit biased to this type of fare. You can’t blame me, though, because the food is divine!

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the savory pasta dishes here, yet the paninis pack a punch as well, let me tell you!

May takes the reins in the kitchen as executive chef, and according to Kit, she puts together an amazing Chicken Spinach Pesto Panini. Priced at $9.95, this most-coveted sandwich features grilled chicken, fresh baby spinach, tomato, pesto-tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella cheese nestled between two fluffy slices of white bread, which are always hot off the griddle. You know you want to bite right in!

Yet, sometimes you just have to go with a tried-and-true American classic, such as Kit n Kitchen’s BLT Panini ($9.95). What’s not to love about bacon, lettuce and tomato? It’s simply a match made in heaven!

This hand-held piece of scrumptiousness presents a perfect panini overflowing with crispy strips of bacon, lettuce, fresh tomato, pesto-tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Absolutely delicious!

All grilled panini sandwiches are served with a garden salad splashed with your choice of sesame miso or ginger dressing.

Kit n Kitchen
1010 University Ave.
Varsity Center
942.7622

Panya Bistro and Bakery

Panya's Chicken Pesto Panini ($9.50)

Panya’s Chicken Pesto Panini ($9.50)

In business for more than a decade, Panya Bistro and Bakery is renowned for its eclectic fare, inviting ambiance and top-notch customer service. This hot spot holds the recipe for success and has it down to a science. Panya first opened its doors in 1997 in McCully Shopping Center and today boasts four thriving locations islandwide, all thanks to the “A-Team” comprised of sisters and restaurant owners Annie and Alice Yeung.

Whatever you’re craving you’ll find it here at Panya. But here’s a little secret (that’s not so secret anymore): If you’re in pursuit of paninis, then make your way to Panya’s Queen Street location or Royal Hawaiian Center eatery in Waikiki. Although Panya in Ala Moana Center has a varied assortment of cuisine, you won’t find paninis on the menu.

So, during my most recent visit to the Queen Street establishment, I concluded that Panya is on point with paninis. In fact, the selection is so diverse, who knows where to begin? Let’s see, there’s a Club Panini, Pastrami Panini, Philly Cheese Steak Panini, Pastrami Panini, Portobello Mushroom with Provolone Panini, Ham and Turkey Panini, Crab Salad and Spinach Panini, Tuna Melt Panini and a whole lot more. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to ask for one of each, but if you must pick one, Panya’s staff recommends Chicken Pesto Panini ($9.50). Fortified with flavor, this sandwich prides itself on its homemade focaccia bread and the crucial ingredients of tender chicken breast, spinach, tomato and a delectable pesto sauce. Pesto makes everything better!

And don’t even get me started on the size of this panini sliced into thirds. Trust me, two pieces are more than enough to fill you up, so you’ll have to wrap up the last slice and take a piece of Panya home with you.

Panya Bistro and Bakery
711 Queen St.
597.8880

Fendu Boulangerie

Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Then make the trip to Fendu Boulangerie in Manoa Marketplace and make your tummy happy with the freshest of breads, pastries, desserts and sandwiches. This neighborhood bakery opened its doors in March 2009, and owner and chef Niel Koep makes mouths water with his handcrafted fare.

Equal parts fat and flour always result in pure bliss. Enter Fendu’s Grilled Cheese Panini ($7.25), which will make you melt with its hearty taste and gourmet cheesy decadence.

“We start with four different cheeses — Parmesan Reggiano, Vermont White Cheddar, fresh mozzarella and Gouda cheese on top of our French bread sandwich loaf,” says Koep of this premier panini. “We put generous amounts of cheese in this sandwich and grill it on our panini press until the cheese is thoroughly melted and the bread is toasted with a crunchy exterior.”

If you’re crazy about cheese, you’ll absolutely adore this panini. The Parmesan and white Cheddar cheeses are prominent and have a sharp bite, and the mozzarella and Gouda cheeses melt with flavor and provide that signature consistency of a grilled cheese sandwich that we’ve grown to know and love.

When you’ve had your fill of cheese, bite into Fendu’s Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini ($8.50), which features a rustic bun layered with morsels of sauteed chicken tenderloins, Black Forest ham, Swiss and Gouda cheeses, caramelized sweet onions and fresh Hamakua Farm tomatoes. You’ll find a little of everything in this panini and it’s definitely one that’ll you’ll gravitate toward again and again.

“A cold deli sandwich is good, but nothing beats a nice, warm sandwich like a panini,” Koep says.

Devour Fendu’s paninis anytime from 11 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., as it makes a fantastic lunch or dinner option. Breakfast paninis also are on hand for the early birds.

Fendu Boulangerie
Manoa Marketplace
2752 Woodlawn Drive #5119
988.4310