For this week's battle, we decided to take on the traditional, delicious, simple Caprese sandwich. The combination of tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella all work so well together it's almost hard to imagine them not being together all the time.
So we took the Caprese sandwiches from two of Phoenix's most loved Italian sandwich shops, Pane Bianco and Cibo, to see who has the better Caprese. Can Cibo's Saltimbocca beat James Beard Award-winning pizza maker Chris Bianco's simple sandwich?
Let's find out...
In This Corner: Pane Bianco
The Set Up: The sister sandwich shop to the world famous Pizzeria Bianco sits just off Central in a recently expanded stand alone building that shares a parking lot with Lux, a coffee shop. The small eatery cranks out three standard sandwich plus a daily market special, a couple salads and loaves of classic Italian bread to hungry, well-dressed lunch goers.
Pane's Caprese sandwich is a favorite with the midtown lunch crowd, especially with our vegetarian friends who seem to want to eat this sandwich and this sandwich only.
The Good: If there's one thing Bianco's knows how to do it's make bread. The bread on this sandwich was super chewy and if one of the most flavorful breads in town. The mozzarella was mild and soft, the thick cut tomatoes were nice and thick and the fresh basil leaves were nice and green. A great sandwich for a simple lunch.
The Bad: There is absolutely nothing bad about this sandwich but it is a little boring. We know that it's suppose to be simple but every time we eat this sandwich, we feel like there could be something more. Maybe a little more olive oil or some cracked black pepper. Something.
In The Other Corner: Cibo
The Set Up: This adorable historic house-turned-restaurant on the outskirts of downtown Phoenix serves up some of the best lunchtime sandwiches and gourmet pizzas and sweet crepes west of Central. Not only do they have good food but the service is always outstanding and the atmosphere is perfect for a business lunch or a romantic first date.
For the sake of this battle, we didn't order our go-to Porcellino and instead went with Cibo's Saltimbocca Caprese.
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The Good: Since we are so in love with the previously mentioned Porcellino sandwich, we'd never actually eaten this sandwich and we didn't know what to expect from Cibo's Caprese. We were pleasantly surprised to see that instead of just tossing a few basil leaves on top of the tomato and mozzarella, Cibo's version has a layer of sweet, fresh basil pesto lining the bottom of the cold sandwich. The pesto really added a huge amount of flavor to what could have been a relatively boring sandwich. The wood-fired bread was tender and flavorful and they didn't skimp on the slabs of fresh mozzarella.
The Bad: Our measly slice of tomato was a little weak. Since tomatoes are a key ingredients of a Caprese, we felt like they should have stepped it up a little on the amount of tomato.
The Verdict: Both sandwiches are awesome. We love Bianco's traditional version of the sandwich but we also love the Cibo's pesto version. And since we have to pick one, we're going to have to go with Cibo's. The pesto really brought out the flavors of the basil and gave the simple sandwich the extra kick that we were looking for.