August 10, 2009
Pane Bianco - Phoenix, AZ - Marvelous Sandwiches
Living in LA makes one spoiled to one huge variable people in other places face every day - the weather. Sure LA can get a little chilly in the winter (by our standards - in the high 40s) or ridiculously hot in the summer (in the low 100s). One doesn't truly experience heat until they head to Phoenix in the summer, which is what my family of four did last week. Thankfully, Phoenix has one significant culinary empire that all good-intentioned restaurateurs should follow. The Bianco empire (or rather trio) began for me at this swell sandwich shop in Central Phoenix, along the slick light-rail metro tracks on Central.
The industrial space has a small place from which to order and take out, while benches covered in a thin veil to protect from the beating sun greets patrons just outside the building. A light mist helps to ameliorate the heat, but at 115 degrees, it doesn't matter. Nothing works. It's just hot - disgustingly hot.
Going back inside Pane Bianco, where the glow of a large wood-fired oven looms in the background, you can order from a small menu of sandwiches. Sadly, they hadn't cooked up their latest batch of rice pudding, supposedly one of the most popular items on the menu, one where customers order them by 4 or 5 so they can take home to enjoy over days. Still, we enjoyed nearly all of their sandwich offerings, along with some refreshing Mountain Valley sparkling water to wash it all down.
Wrapped in a tight parchment package, the sandwiches form 8 inch diameter disks, crispy focaccia loaves flattened for optimal sandwich consumption. The loaves are baked on site in the wonderful wood-fired oven. The first one below is a mortadella sandwich with pecorino and crunchy escarole. Above is a cross-section of Michelle's tuna sandwich, rich with olive-oil canned tuna and a hefty swig of balsamic to cut through. It was my favorite of my first visit. A bed of bitter, peppery arugula rounded that sandwich out.
On another occasion, we had the heirloom tomato sandwich, which comes with a thick layer of fresh mozzerela. The cheese was outstanding, not too fatty or chewy, with just the right bite of savory flavor. Basil added a bright freshness.
Last but not least was a sorpressata sandwich with aged provolone and sweet roasted red peppers. Delicious, though perhaps the red peppers overwhelmed the super-thin layer of meat.
Overall I loved this place. Even though the sandwiches were a tad expensive at $8 a pop, the quality of the ingredients was unparalleled. The freshly baked bread was the foundation of each sandwich, though one should eat with caution as the crispy crust could be painful if consumed too quickly (scarred mouth is evidence of that). Pane Bianco has a solid place in the Bianco trio, offering sandwiches without the tremendous wait of the pizzeria. Oh, and don't forget to eat the delicious walnut caramels that come with each order. It'll take you right back to your childhood.
4404 N Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85012
602 234 2100