Playing with panini

Jorge Medina chops veggies at the best panini place Brad Bynum has found.

Jorge Medina chops veggies at the best panini place Brad Bynum has found.

Photo By David Robert

Based on my admittedly crude understanding of Italian grammar, there should be no such word as “paninies.” But there it is, handwritten in sprawling paint on the front window of Michael’s Deli: “We Make the Best Paninies in Reno.” The Italian word “panini” is already plural (the singular form, meaning “little bread,” is panino), and though one often hears of “panini sandwiches” and of eating “a panini sandwich,” it is certainly a testament to the predatory nature of the English language that such an innocent word could be so grossly commandeered.

“Paninies?” protested my friend Mark as we approached the deli. “There shouldn’t be an '–es’ ending! It’s an Italian word! You can’t just arbitrarily decide to impose the rules of English grammar!”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when English majors luncheon: We discuss, at great length, the grammar of advertising signs. (I will, for the sake of brevity, exclude our fascinating analysis of some typographical errors in the menu.)

Inside, Michael’s Deli is more than a little reminiscent of the Blimpie sandwich shop it once was—comfortable environment, brightly colored walls, an ordering counter, a soda fountain, bountiful seating. The deli man behind the counter greeted us with cheerful enthusiasm, “Hello, hello! Would you like some delicious paninies today?”

Mark and I followed his advice and both ordered panini sandwiches. Michael’s panini sandwiches are svelte bread rolls loaded with meat (I went with roast beef, Mark had salami), melted cheeses, veggies and a tasty sauce all pressed and grilled together and then served hot. They are very, very good and a pretty good bargain at $4.50.

“I had no chance against that sandwich,” said Mark, after wolfing his down in a matter of minutes.

One complaint I have about Michael’s is that the hours aren’t clearly posted or regularly kept. I tried going twice before I was able to eat there. Don’t plan for a late lunch, as they might be closed any time after 2 p.m.

My girlfriend, Danielle, joined up with us later. She asked what we had eaten, and we told her panini sandwiches, only to notice that they weren’t posted on either the menu board or the paper menus. “All just word of mouth about the paninies,” said Mark, but I concluded that the giant hand-painted sign on the window was invitation enough.

I decided to have a second lunch with Danielle. She had the grilled eggplant parmesan sandwich ($4.95), basically a vegetarian panini option, that she claimed was excellent and unusually filling for a small, vegetarian sandwich. I decided to change things up a bit and have the half-a-sandwich and soup option ($3.95). I had a cold Italian salami sandwich and a cup of the day’s soup, tortilla chicken. Both were unremarkable, fairly standard fare, but those paninies are quite good—so good I bet the word "paninies" will soon be found in a dictionary near you. And if there are better ones in Reno than the ones at Michael’s Deli, then I haven’t had them.