PANINO GIUSTO: Italy’s Way of Making the Perfect Sandwich

The story of one of the world’s best sandwiches begins in the center of Milan, on a cold February day in 1979, when the first customer took a bite and uttered words that would prove to be prophetic: “If you keep making sandwiches like this, you’ll make a fortune.”

The shop’s name was Panino Giusto (The “Right” Sandwich)—and there must be something truly right about it judging from the 27 locations that have opened throughout Italy, the five in Japan, the upcoming openings throughout Europe and almost 30 million euro of earnings annually. After all, like pizza and gelato, the word panino has become a familiar term for a certain kind of sandwich throughout the world.

The outstanding menu of Panino Giusto features two particular best sellers, panini that are emblematic of the franchise’s approach to sandwich-making. The “settebello” is made from prosciutto di Praga, brie cheese and veal paté; the “tartufo” features aged prosciutto crudo, brie cheese, tomatoes, arugula and truffle oil from Alba.

What is surprising to most new customers is just how much of these precious ingredients are used in each sandwich—triple the amount that you’d find anywhere else. It’s this sense of opulence and richness of taste that has been the winning secret to Panino Giusto’s success.

FDL met with Antonio Civita, the CEO, to shed some light into the world of the perfect sandwich.

What are three tips for making the perfect sandwich?

First, you have to use excellent products and make the sandwich to order. It may seem obvious, but this really makes a difference. Second, you have to warm the bread separately, and never heat it along with the ingredients. Heating the fillings changes their taste. And lastly, it’s all about balance. You must achieve a balance with regards to taste, temperature and even color.

What are some of the outstanding products that you use?

It’s the excellence of the ingredients that has made Panino Giusto such a success. We consider a sandwich to be a meal, something just as substantial and high-quality as you might eat in a more traditional restaurant. We use prosciutto crudo from Langhirano that has been aged 24 months.

We use extra-virgin olive oil from the Trampolini family, who has been pressing olives since 1300. Our organic wines are from the Fattoria Cabanon, our Trifulè white truffle oil comes from the Cerutti di Monta d’Alba family, we get our paté from the Mariolino company and our frozen desserts come from the artisanal gelato makers.

Tell us about your success in Japan.

We have four shops in Tokyo and one in Yokohama. Helping with our market strategy has been the Morita Food Service group, run by Hideo Morita, the son of the founder of the Sony corporation, Akio Morita, whose family has been tied to the production of sake for generations.

Japan has been very receptive to our sandwiches, and is a market that welcomes Italian gastronomic excellence as a whole. We’re considering opening other locations soon.

Any last insights to offer?

The most important ingredient for us is passion. Our company-wide motto is, “Make each sandwich as if you were eating it yourself.”