Stuffing My Face at Pane Bianco
Two days after having a pizza epiphany at Pizzeria Bianco, I visited Chris Bianco's other outpost of unearthly good food, Pane Bianco. Unlike Pizzeria Bianco, there's no need to be afraid of a two-hour wait. Nor is there anywhere to sit inside, since the sandwich shop is take-out only. However, there's a perfectly good shaded seating area right outside the entrance where you can semi-beat the Arizona heat under the cooling droplets of the misters that line the canopy.
The sandwiches may not look beautiful (they experienced some jostling from the short journey between the door and the seating area), but don't be deceived; Bianco has serious skills in the "take simple, fresh ingredients and combine them into something worthy of feeding to the gods" department. But instead of feeling godly while eating his sandwiches, I just felt like I was unworthy of ingesting such perfection. Not that that stopped me from swallowing every last bite.
My favorite type of sandwich is the foolproof combination of mozzarella, basil and tomato. How Bianco's version of this sandwich ended up tasting better than any other I had ever eaten before, I don't know. Like his pizzas, the ingredients tasted as though they were freshly pulled from the garden and were piled into the wood-fired bread under the perfect filling-to-bread ratio. And the bread...oh man. It was magic. if this isn't what they serve in heaven, I don't want to go there. I can't provide a description that would give the bread full justice, but in my mere mortal terms I'd say that it was soft and a little chewy punctuated by charred crispy bits on the top. [Insert sound of drooling and happiness.] If there were such a thing I'd want a pillow version of this bread so I could eat it while dreaming.
The tuna mixed with red onion, Gaeta olives, and a hint of lemon and topped arugula managed to have a creamy consistency without the inclusion of mayonnaise that I was used to eating growing up. This was probably the best tuna sandwich I had ever eaten and the one that tasted least like the others. Why, why so tasty?
The market sandwich, which changes periodically based on what seasonal local ingredients happen to be available, was Brown's Orchard roasted lamb and escarole. After the first bite my brain went, "What...what is this? When did lamb taste so succulent? Does lamb usually burst with this much lamb-ness? Is this really just lamb? There's no magic sauce hidden in here? Must eat more..." I don't mind telling you how idiotic my thoughts are because that's what Chris Bianco's sandwiches do to me. They melt my brain. With deliciousness. Which is probably the best kind of brain melt-age.
It would be easiest to illustrate how much my friends and I enjoyed our sandwiches with an audio recording of our lunch than with words, as most of our utterances consisted of low drawn-out moans, smacking lips, and proclamations such as, "Thisisreallygood," muffled by our sandwich-filled mouths. All this sandwich happiness can be your's starting at just $8, a very reasonable price for the hefty, high-quality sandwich.
Address: 4404 N Central Ave, Phoenix AZ 85012 [map]