The Challenger: Gustapanino
For rules, regulations, and a fascinating review of sandwich history, see here. For our current rankings, see this blog’s side bar.
Sandwich Wars continues!
Quick review: Currently in first place with their huge and mouth-watering Finocchiona panino is the Via dei Neri favorite, All’Antico Vinaio. Coming in at a close second, we have the salty and super flavorful porchetta sandwich at the tucked-away-treasure known as Da’Vinattieri. The competition is steep. Can our newest contestant squeeze into these tight numbers?
After last month’s killer competition, I just didn’t see how anyone, without some serious effort, was going to be able to push into the top two or three spots on the board. I always have my fingers crossed, so this month I went back to an old favorite, Gustapanino. I remember this sandwich spot as being one of my go-tos about two years ago. I used to look forward to stopping here every Sunday for a salty treat after perusing a flea market or taking a leisurely Sunday stroll in the gorgeous Piazza Santo Spirito. There is almost always a small line, longer around lunchtime, and it remains consistently a mix of American students living in the area and locals looking for a quick meal. The panino shop makes up one part of a three-part establishment, including Gusta Pizza and Gusta Osteria, all three of which are very popular. So I decided it was time to go back with my now more educated sandwich palate. I think sadly, I may be overly educated.
Contestant #5: Gustapanino
Piazza Santo Spirito, 2R Florence, Italy (See map below)
(Note: Gustapanino changed locations a few years ago, but the online info has not been updated. All the Gusta establishments are right near each other, and Gustapanino is directly on the piazza. The old address and what you will find it listed online is Via de’ Michelozzi 13R, 50125 Firenze)
Hours: Tuesday to (some) Sunday(s): 10am – 9pm (80% sure. Need to confirm)
This is one of the few sandwich shops on the Oltrarno and so it has an established following. Some of their loyal fans are the American students that live and study in and around the piazza. The staff is friendly and gives students a little more attention than some other places so they feel a bit more “local” going there. A little kindness goes a long way here.
Their panini are all served on your basic focaccia roll, which (bonus!) also come in integrale (wholewheat bread). In addition (though not valid for our competition) they serve piadine, aka “wraps” and a selection of drinks, including beer and wine. They have all your basic ingredients, including several exciting spreads, such as crema di funghi, olive, crema di carciofi, and crema tartufata (mushroom spread, olive spread, artichoke spread, and truffle spread). The cheese selection includes (my favorite) stracchino as well as brie and, like any self-respecting Florentine panino shop, their menu includes a porchetta (roast pork) sandwich. After much deliberation, we chose to try this classic.
Here is a visual breakdown of our selection:When the sandwich came out, I was slightly disappointed by the size. It was smaller than I remembered and I knew this would only temporarily satiate my appetite (as much as a 2.50 Euro Fratellini panino, and this was 3.50 Euro). I did, however, like that the bread was warm and had been grilled after the porchetta was added, making the ingredients and the bread toasty and ready to eat. In addition the heat helped some of the fat that was on the porchetta melt into the bread giving it that extra delicious gravy-like taste. The meat itself was also very flavorful if slightly less in quantity than we got in the Da’Vinattieri prochetta sandwich. It was also the only ingredient in the sandwhich, which ultimately, I thought was good.
In this particular battle, it was hard for me to ignore the sandwiches my friends got. They were, in some case, vastly inferior to mine. The panini which did not include a stint in the bread grill were very boring, cold, and not terribly memorable. Mine, while being .50 Euro centesimi more, was by far the most flavorful and satisfying. (I should mention that when I frequented this particular location I ordered almost exclusively piadine and perhaps this is what they are better at…)
The storefront is a hole-in-the-wall with a big clear sign and a boar’s head hanging outside, making it hard to miss. Unfortunately the entrance gets backed up with the line and people waiting for sandwiches they have already ordered. Luckily, it does include three tables with 2-4 seats for eating inside when it’s cold. In the summer, you’re only limited by the number of free benches in the piazza. As I mentioned before, this is one of the few panino pit stops on the other side of the river. That and the gorgeous setting of Santo Spirito give the location a big bump in my book.
1. Taste: 7.75 points (out of 10)
Pretty delicious, but the bread is nothing to Da’Vinattieri’s salty focaccia squares and it has less meat than their version as well. Also had to take points away for the fact that so few of the sandwiches appeared to live up to this one’s caliber.
2. Cost: 3.75 points (out of 5)
Very reasonable on paper (3 – 3.50 Euro), but perhaps a bit much for what you end up getting.
3. Location and general experience: 4.5 points (out of 5)
Indoor seating with space for about 6-10 and situated on one of the more lovely piazzas.
Total: 16 points out of 20 = 80%
REIGNING CHAMP: All’Antico Vinaio!!!!
Check in next month for the next challenger! Hopefully they bring their best right hook.