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Panini Pete’s 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die

Fairhope, Alabama

Pete’s Famous Muffuletta Panino from Panini Pete’s Café & Bakeshoppe is my 66th dish or , #35th  if I am counting down on Alabama Tourism’s 100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die.

In my Wisconsin hometown, there is a submarine sandwich chain called Cousin’s Subs. For most of my life, every single time that I visit, I have ordered ONLY this one sandwich. Once, I tried another variety but only once. The “Italian Special,” made with top-quality ingredients; cappacolla ham, coteghino, (cotechino)  bologna, Genoa salami, provolone, (Wisconsin) lettuce, onions, tomatoes, salt, oregano & oil served on freshly baked bread; for me, only on the Italian Bread. The high-quality  and fresh bakery bread is closer to Jimmy John’s subs, certainly nothing at all like Subway. I love this sandwich; every other Italian sandwich that I eat is compared to this one. Sadly, I only am able to eat this during my visits to Wisconsin or Arizona.

What does that have to do with this blog?

When I first tried a Muffuletta at Central Grocery in New Orleans, I knew that my favorite Italian was just bumped down a tiny notch. Maybe, because the two are different.  By far, the Muffuletta is in my top 3 favorite sandwiches, and will forever haunt me.

This sandwich was invented in,and now quintessentially linked with New Orleans sandwiches.   Without getting too lengthy, the sandwich is sheer Italian perfection, created by a Sicilian Grocer in 1900. Central Grocery is still family-owned and located in the French-Quarter of New Orleans.  The sandwich is as big as your head and could feed a family. The bread is a food experience. It is round and flattened, sprinkled with sesame seeds. It has a crispy exterior, but the interior is surprisingly fluffy and airy-light.  Add to this, some of my favorite Italian meats and cheeses. What makes this sandwich unique is that Italian Olive Salad, made with their family recipe and added to the meats and cheeses. Usually, it is served cold but many places warm it to melt the provolone.   Check out this visual. Muffuletta

What does this lengthy foreplay have to do with this blog?

The original Panini Pete’s Café & Bakeshoppe is located in the French Quarter of downtown Fairhope, Alabama. It seems fitting to serve some NOLA foods.

Trying to emulate a Muffuletta sandwich is no easy task, but Chef Pete at Panini Pete’s got this one right. It is not to be compared to the Muffuletta; it is his own creation, a nod and a bow to the famous NOLA sandwich.

 

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Panini Pete’s Muffuletta

 

Made with the freshest ingredients possible, local tomatoes purchased daily, Italian Mortadella, salami, provolone, and swiss cheese, served on a specialty Rustic Bread that is shipped from New Jersey, it has to fit in that press.   Of course, it is the Gambino’s Italian Olive Salad that comes from New Orleans that gives this dish a unique flavor, one that will bring you back to The Big Easy with just one bite. Served with hand cut potato chips. In a fantastic setting.  And yes, I heard that the beignets are delicious.

 

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Paini Pet’s Atrium seating

 

With garden atrium seating or cafe style outdoors, the place is surrounded by lush greenery, palm trees, and boutique-style shopping.

 

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Panini Pete’s Courtyard

 

I learned that this city was founded by a group of Midwesterners with vision and a unique tax structure. This town is deserving of more exploration in the future.

I was lucky enough to meet up with my step-cousin, who also has moved to Alabama.  She was able to point out some fantastic shopping and give pointers for future restaurant visits.  After our meal, we walked off some calories and she was able to take me through the lush garden town, filled with awesome architecture, shops, parks, fountains, and then onto the dock of the bay.  From this point, one could grab fresh seafood, fish, watch the sunset and spy the city of Mobile.

MEGastars-4 **** What a fun sandwich, packed with flavor, served in a wonderful setting.

MEGatips:

  1. Do visit the original café in Fairhope, Alabama. Here is the link to the website for hours and location.Panini Pete’s
  2. There are also two other locations. Mobile Alabama , and Destin Florida. Website as above.
  3. Stay- Splurge- The Grande Marriott, Resort, Golf Club and Spa. Located minutes away in nearby Point Clear, Alabama.  Marriott Resort-Point Clear, Alabama
  4. Want to try a Muffuletta? Do NOT mess around, go to Central Grocery. Located in the French-Quarter of New Orleans. I have made the mistake of trying others. You are able to get the olive salad and a Muffuletta shipped to your home. Central Grocery, New Orleans
  5. Or, Gambino’s Bakery for their bread, Italian bakery goods,  and Olive salad. I note this is also sold in some Wal-Mart’s.  Gambino’s
  6. Cannot get to Fairhope? McCallister’s Deli has locations across the U.S.A. Try their Half-New Orleans Muffuletta. They use Gambino’s Muffuletta bread and olive salad. I have eaten this sandwich and it’s quite good. *It is huge!

Interesting things that I have learned about this very hard working and dedicated Chef.

  1. Chef Pete Blohme is a graduate of  the Culinary Institute of America (CIA)
  2. He took part in ownership with his brother-in-law, Bob Baumhower.
  3. He hangs out with Guy Fieri, and has also been featured on Diners Drive In’s and Dives, Guy’s Big Bites, and went on the road in Guy Fierei’s Traveling Roadshow.
  4. He hosts a series on YouTube called Small Town Flavor.  I just watched a few and really enjoyed.  Here is a link to part 1. Fairhope, Alabama. Small Town Flavor-You Tube
  5. And he is a founding member of a wonderful group called Messlords. According to the Facebook page,
    “The primary purpose of MESSLORDS is to work with all facets of the U.S. military and their families, both domestically and abroad, to provide entertainment, education and boost morale through culinary related shows and demonstrations.
    MESSLORDS provides celebrity chefs and other culinary related personalities with a vehicle capable of presenting shows and demonstrations at select military bases & installations. The culinary experts of The MESSLORDS offer educational opportunities as well as healthy rivalries through demonstrations and cooking competitions.”

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This MEGabites and MEGastars description is found at the bottom of each post. If you are new to my 100 Dishes in Alabama escapade, this may be helpful information.

ABOUT:  *100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die,” is a compilation of food to chow down on “Bama style.”  Thanks to Tourism Alabama, www.alabama.travel my Alabama bucket list just became a little easier.  I am going to have some food fun while making my way like Ms. Pacman, in yet another state that I call home.   From the little old diner to the white cloth setting, this journey is an opportunity for me to explore my new state and experience pride in food from restaurateurs who are dedicated to local food, with some Alabama style. From the local BBQ smoker to James Beard recipients, you too will take a culinary trip across scenic and historical Alabama.  From this list, I select stops based upon convenience of location and they are in no particular order (but I already have a few favorites.)  Perhaps when I finish this list, I will rank my favorite dishes. You too may pick up the brochure at Alabama Tourism stops or download the alphabetical brochure that begins in Abbeville and ends in York.

I use a 5 MEGastar system.  For the most part, I am traveling a distance to try these dishes and these places get one shot at how I view the food and experience.   I will not be taking an average of three visit experiences and I factor this in when I give my star rating. That said, I’m very easy to please, I can overlook quite a bit and have worked in the food service industry.  I am not a paid food critic, just Meg, a curious traveler, with an interest in trying different foods and sharing my two cents on the experience.  I try to follow my own star system so that I may be fair to the wonderful dishes on this list.

  • *meh food. Just wasn’t good. Maybe the food came from a can? or,  the place was not one that I would want to send someone to show pride in Alabama.   This has happened to me a few times and is a difficult write.
  • ** passable – the food was “ok” but the place  was not “ok” or vice versa.
  • *** good but not outstanding or unique.
  • **** Very tasty dish AND meets one of the definitions set forth by Alabama Foods/Tourism, of local food and/OR truly highlights Alabama Pride.
  • ***** I actually died, went to heaven and came back when I ate the dish. And/Or, something is very unique, something you cannot get anywhere else.
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