Walking into Panino’s, which is just off of Prospect Rd., feel’s like walking into a vintage family-owned Italian restaurant. The restaurant is dark, but each table is brightly lit with overhead lights, which gives it a cozy feeling. The booths are solid wood and separated by black and white checkered tables, with red curtains above the benches offering privacy and flair. The lamps above the tables have the green “poker” glass lampshades, and all of these details culminate into giving the restaurant a homey, vintage feeling.
The silverware was already set out on the table, wrapped in a napkin so that the silverware wasn’t touching the surface, which is something that always bothers me when it’s done incorrectly. The walls are decorated with a plethora of art, and popular alternative music from the 2000’s era plays lightly in the background. All of these elements put together give Panino’s a very relaxing atmosphere.
The waitstaff was very friendly and courteous, making me feel welcome there. I was seated quickly and the waitstaff was attentive, making sure I wasn’t left waiting. They were familiar with the menu and helped me in making my decisions. They were also very fast, and all of my food came shortly after I ordered it.
To start, I ordered the Garlic Cheese Bread appetizer. It had a good garlic flavor and was slightly buttery. The bread was soft in the middle and crispy on the edges, which was nice. It was topped with marinara and melted mozzarella and cheddar cheese, which added to the appetizer, but individually weren’t anything special. However, the whole thing was a bit lukewarm. It was good, but it would have been nice if it came hot.
I ordered two paninos, which are like rolled up toasted sandwiches and are what the restaurant is named after. They each came with a side of pasta salad. The salad came in a small metal sauce cup, which was quite a bit less than what I was expecting. It had light herbs and balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top, which gave it a sweet and tangy flavor. It had tomato and mozzarella chunks in it, which provided a nice balance. It was also good, but the portions seemed more like a sampler and less of a side.
The first panino was called the Gino Special, which came with meatballs and/or Italian sausage, oven roasted onion, green pepper, garlic, mozzarella, parmesan, and marinara. I was informed that the meatballs were house-made, so I went with those.
The first thing was apparent was that the green pepper and onion gave it a strong vegetable flavor. They were cooked nicely, adding a good crunch. The next taste that surfaced was the herbs, which were bolder than what was used in the pasta salad. It was a little spicy, though spicy like black pepper rather than jalapenos. The meatballs had a lot of spice and were tender, but they were also a little grainy and on the drier side, which I believe was a stylistic choice rather than a poor recipe. The dough that it was all wrapped up in was very similar to pizza crust. It was a little chewy in the good way – crispy on the outside and airy but dense in the middle. There wasn’t enough mozzarella for my tastes, and the marinara was just shy of enough for me. However, it was still delicious, and this plate came hot.
The second panino was called the Pesto Chicken, which came with chicken breast, mozzarella, pesto mayo, spinach, zucchini, tomato, and basil pesto. This panino had lighter herbs and a nice spinach flavor, which was the first thing I noticed about it. The tomatoes were juicy and the zucchini added a nice crunch. The pesto was delicious, but pesto is always a favorite of mine. The chicken was good, but again on the drier side, and it wasn’t fatty. The dough was the same as the first panino. This dish also came hot. The only fault was too much of the pesto mayo, as it was dripping out the bottom. This panino overall was delicious, but I would recommend asking them to hold the pesto mayo and possibly add more regular pesto.
For dessert, I ordered the Grasshopper Pie. It contained mint chocolate chip ice cream from Walrus, which is my favorite ice cream shop in Fort Collins. The ice cream was very minty and delicious, as to be expected from the local favorite. It was topped with delicious fudge that was rich and dark, which was possibly my favorite part. That was topped with chocolate drizzle and whipped cream, all of which was on an Oreo crust. The crust was very dense and chewy, so it didn’t fall apart like some Oreo crusts do.
Overall, the food is good but a bit on the pricier side, but that is because of it is quality Italian food. The service is great, the atmosphere is comfortable, and the interior is cozy. I would come back to Panino’s when I was planning to spend a little more on dinner.
Food: 4 stars
Atmosphere: 4 stars
Service: 5 stars
Price: 4 stars
Total Score: 4.25 stars
The clean-cut, covert culinary critique and Collegian writer Capelli D’angelo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Capelli_Dangelo. Leave a comment!!
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