Cafe Reviews


Well-Bread: In the old days, you'd walk into a sandwich shop at lunchtime and order a BLT on white toast or a ham and cheese on rye.

Not anymore. These days, your sandwich bread is much more likely to come directly out of the oven than out of a Wonder bread plastic bag. It's probably got an Italian name. And it's probably filled with fancy ingredients that the lunchpail crowd of a generation ago wouldn't have recognized.

Phoenix now has its share of upscale sandwich joints. Here are some places around town that will give you a '90s sandwich to complement your lunchtime caffä latte.

Focaccia Fiorentina, 123 North Central, 252-0007. This New York sandwich shop recently opened a second branch here in the Valley. It specializes, as you might expect, in focaccia sandwiches.

It offers about 16 meat, fish and vegetarian sandwich options, priced between $5 and $6. The abetone, lined with carrots, roasted squash and peppers and a tiny schmear of goat cheese, is a tasty option. The sandwiches, however, could have a little more heft.

Panini, 2394 East Camelback, 224-8422. It's not easy finding Panini, tucked in the first floor of an office building set back from the street. But it's worth the hunt.

Panini whips up several excellent grilled sandwiches on homemade focaccia for about $5. I'm fond of the pollo pesto--chicken breast, roasted red peppers, grilled zucchini, fontina cheese, all coated with a pistachio pesto. The giardino, made from assorted grilled vegetables and provolone cheese, is another good choice.

Panino, 5524 North Seventh Avenue, 336-1198. If you work on the west side, consider this opera-themed sandwich place as a lunch stop. But it helps to enjoy opera. There are opera posters on the wall and opera on the music system. Even the sandwiches are named after operas.

Sandwiches, which run about $5, come on either rosemary bread or tomato roll. The Manon Lescaut features Brie, cracked pepper ham, sprouts and Dijon mustard. The tasty Carmen offers yummy roast pork and peppers, saffron mayo and a sprinkle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Caffe Boa, 709 South Mill, Tempe, 968-9112. This small, student-friendly cafe offers $5 sandwiches on either toasted baguette or focaccia.

The misto brings a mix of Italian cold cuts, provolone and some seasoned greenery. The three-cheese model comes blended with sweet red peppers and a peppy black olive pesto.

Clucking All the Way to the Bank: Sharp-eyed fast fooders may have noticed that Boston Chicken is changing its name. Now it's Boston Market.

This phenomenally successful chain--there are almost 600 outlets around the country--wants consumers to think of it as more than a chicken place. It's expanding the menu with three new entrees: rotisserie turkey, baked ham and meat loaf. The emphasis is no longer on supplying customers with a quick poultry bite. Management now hopes Mom or Dad will stop in here and pick up a complete dinner for the family.--Howard Seftel