The salsiccia panini at Cupini’s defeats its rivals

Picking a favorite from the many varieties is no easy taste task.

03/19/2014 2:27 PM

05/16/2014 8:24 PM

It’s hard to find a great sandwich on house-baked bread for $5, and Cupini’s Italian Restaurant has 13 of them, each distinctive and worthy of your hard-earned five-spot.

Panini are what Cupini’s calls its version of a sub. All are served on fresh Italian rolls that have a crunchy outer crust and are dense enough inside to soak up the delicious aiolis, vinaigrettes and pestos used as dressings.

The fillings — four hot, five cold and four veggie — are so yummy it’s hard to pick a favorite. On my first visit I tried the Gangster, one of the cold offerings and clearly the winner in the name category: It had prosciutto, salami, roasted bell peppers, eggplant, provolone and garlic aioli. I wanted it to be the star, but the thick plank of eggplant would not be universally liked in this meat-loving town. (Veggie-loving omnivores will adore it.)

Instead, today’s spotlight and mouthwatering photo belong to the salsiccia panini, a savory delight made with house-made mild Italian sausage, spinach and sauteed garlic. It is served hot so it will warm you up when the wind has chilled you out in a bad way.

The other hot offerings are an Italian house-made roast beef in au jus; a meatball version with marinara and a lemon chicken with roasted peppers, fresh pesto and provolone.

As if $5 weren’t enough of a bargain for the panini, if you go on Wednesday you get to flip a coin. If you call heads or tails correctly you get your lunch free (anything less than $10 and not counting the daily special items in the glass case.)

That’s right, free. I don’t understand the economics of it, but they’ve been offering that promotion every Wednesday for more than a year.

The neighborhood joint on Westport Road near State Line Road has expanded over the years from the original tiny 1,200 square-foot store front to a whopping 6,000 square feet today.

At one point Owner Eddie Cupini had three outposts in the metro before deciding to pull back and focus all his energies on expanding the capacity and offerings at the original location. And the offerings, with all those yummy sandwiches, are mind-boggling: Fresh pasta, house-made pastries, delicious soups that change every day.

Lucky Westport.

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