Thursday, March 18, 2010

Panini Cafe: A wrap that is worth the wait

“You know I could kind of go for…”

“Yeah, me too.” My mom says.

“Do you think there’ll be a long wait?” I ask, eyeing the clock. It’s after 1 pm, but I know what weekends are like at Panini Cafe, one of Newport Beach’s only acceptable brunch places. (Incidentally, the locations in Los Angeles are not nearly as popular.)

She shrugs, unsure. “We can drive by…”

“Yeah let’s do that.” I say firmly, knowing that even if there is a long wait, we will most likely hold out for the object of our desire.

We both have wrap on the brain, specifically the chicken wrap that comes with hummus, tomato, cucumber, pickle, romaine lettuce, mint and basil neatly tucked into a whole grain tortilla ($9.95). It’s hardly an appropriate order for an Italian and Mediterranean restaurant that is named for its panini sandwiches, but it’s not all that shocking for my mom and me. We both share a deep love of wraps and have even been known to seek out sustenance from the fast food purveyor Tacone for a fix.

Yes, I do eat fast food.

(About once every three years.)

I’m not sure why we love wraps so much. It’s really just a sandwich held in place by an alternative form of carbohydrate -- a cross between a burrito and a sandwich, if you will. It shouldn’t evoke such a googly-eyed reaction, but for some reason, my mom and I can’t get enough of them. If there is a wrap on the menu, nine times out of ten we will both order it. And then, if agreeable, proceed to go back for it over and over and over again.

Which brings us to Panini Cafe for our last two lunches in Orange County.

To be fair, the chicken wrap at the casual come-as-you-are (as long as you have a nice bag) restaurant, is far superior than, say, the offerings at Tacone. For one, the contents remain intact and do not spill out onto one’s newly laundered skirt. The tender white meat is warm – a pleasant contrast to the cool veggies, fresh herbs and crisp lettuce. Plus, the wrap has pickles.

I love pickles.

Of course, it would be silly to wait more than fifteen minutes for some warm chicken and pickles tucked into a well-contained whole wheat tortilla. It’s not like it’s Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s fried chicken or a cheesy mac and rib from the Grilled Cheese Truck.

Which is why it’s a good thing it comes with sides – a lightly-dressed couscous pilaf with raisins, red onions, red peppers and fresh herbs, pasta salad or a fresh fruit cup that is not all melon.

Couscous and fruit are definitely worth the wait.

Especially when one has a mom as lovely as mine to chat with on the sun-kissed sidewalk outside.

Panini Cafe
2333 East Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625-2033
(949) 675-8101


Jenn said...

I can't wait until I can eat chicken again. I miss having it. hehehe... Delicious wrap though. If it's worth the wait, then it would be worth the drive down.

Esi said...

That must be like a really good wrap if you *waited* for it..PS, I love getting Tacone when I go see a movie at Century City

Diana said...

Jenn - I actually think giving up chicken would be fairly easy for me! Until I got a craving for the wrap that is... mmm pickles...

Esi - Phew! So glad I'm not the only one! I normally hate chips, but theirs are delicious!

Anna A. said...

Aw you and the Sig Mom out on the town. Dying to meet her!

Cafe Observer said...

Where can I find great Panini sandwiches?