What to Know
The famous Florence street food restaurant, All'Antico Vinaio, is serving its panini in New York until July 13th.
The month-long pop-up sandwich shop is located at Otto, an Italian restaurant on 8th street and 5th avenue.
New Yorkers have been forming lines around the block to try these sandwiches.
New York Italian eatery Otto has welcomed its Florentine friends into their home in Greenwich Village. For one month, the legendary street food restaurant, All’Antico Vinaio, will take up residence at Otto in the form of a pop-up sandwich shop, satisfying New Yorkers' want for their famous Tuscan style sandwiches.
The pop-up is a transatlantic effort between Otto’s owner, Joe Bastianich and All’Antico Vinaio’s owner Tommaso Mazzanti, to bring the celebrated panini outside of Florence for the first time ever. And New Yorkers have given the Italian transplant a very warm greeting.
Since the pop up’s opening on July 13th, lines have been forming in front of Otto’s store front and down east eighth street daily. According to Otto’s executive chef Gaetano Arnone, on the shop’s opening day, the line wrapped down the block all the way to Washington Square Park. That’s about a third of a mile.
While the restaurant expected the pop-up to draw a buzz Otto’s general manager Matthew Eil said he was taken aback by just how many people showed up. “We were expecting it to definitely get some attention but it would be not truthful for me to say I envisioned seeing lines around the corner”.
But if these crowds are somewhat surprising in New York, they are commonplace for All’Antico Vinaio in Florence. The panini-makers manning the pop-up, who flew in from Florence, are not at all fazed by the mass of diners. “In Florence, when it’s busy, we used to serve about six, seven thousand people per a day… It’s our job. I love it” said Alberto, one of All’Antico Vinaio’s panini makers.
In order to ensure that customers have the real and unique experience of enjoying one of these sandwiches on the streets of New York, Otto needed their sandwiches to taste as close to the Florentine original as possible.
Especially important was to truthfully recreate the Favolosa sandwich, All’Antico Vinaio’s most popular creation. The legendary sandwich is made from artichoke cream, pecorino cream, grilled eggplant, and finocchiona (a salami typical to Tuscany). To preserve authenticity, many of the ingredients used at the pop-up are sourced from Italy or made in house. If an ingredient could not be obtained from Italy, the restaurant used a domestic supplier with origins in the same region around Florence and Siena as All’Antico Vinaio. Otto even had culinary experts from Florence, like the baker who supplies All’Antico Vinaio’s bread, fly in to teach Otto’s chefs their techniques.
All of these ingredients and preparation combine to form six sandwiches, each with a general template but own unique flavor. “You know it’s really layered” explains Arnone. “So you have warm schiacciata bread coming out of the oven, you have the saltier cured meats and then you have the layers of flavor.”
Some of these layers include warm pecorino cheese cream, fried zucchini flowers, artichoke and truffle cream, eggplant, and mozzarella. When stacked together, they form sandwiches of fantasies. As Arnone puts it, “Imagine you had a dream, and in the dream you were eating the best sandwich you ever had. Then when you woke up, you could still taste it for a little bit. That’s what it tastes like”.