Panini in Florence, Italy

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Street Food By Marcus Samuelsson

People make sandwiches around the world, but no on calls it a panini unless it is made like the Florentines do it. Pressed cheesy sandwiches with tons of stuffings from ham, sausages, eggs, grilled eggplant, lettuce tomatoes to the classic Tuscan lampredetto - stewed tripe - are available off the street for people on-the-go.

Go off the beaten path in looking for your perfect panino. It's easy and made easier by the places that are so popular and meticulous about pressing their sandwiches, they will even serve house wine to be sipped while you wait or munch. Most of these places are standing room only.

Typically there might be some paninis that are ready to eat, after a brief press to heat them through. But almost all sandwich stands will allow you to custom-stuff your sandwich with many kinds of meat, cheese, sauces and vegetables. This street food is so affordably priced, that even if you go crazy on the buffet of offerings, it will cost you less than a single course meal in a sit-down place. Try coppa with artichokes, or just the pressed bread with truffled butter. And of course there is the whole gamut of Italian salumeria - proscuitto, porchetta, salame. Vegetarians can have tomato, mozzarella and persto, or marinated grilled eggplants and cipollini onions with red peppers.

What started as a working man's rushed street lunch or a picnic snack in Italy, it has now become a global dish in restaurants in London and Dubai. Paninis originally had just one stuffing to make a complete meal of carbohydrates and proteins to keep people going during a work day, now Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach sell panini presses for home. It's been quite a journey for a humble little sandwich that became a world figure.

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