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‘ino: Itsy Bitsy Panino Spot Packs a Punch

The size of Carrie Bradshaw’s shoe closet, ‘ino certainly doesn’t have grand aspirations in terms of space or decor. The tables are cramped together or squeezed into corners and the kitchen is about the size of my bathroom (note: not big.) However, this tiny neighborhood joint down the block from Blue Ribbon Bakery on Bedford St. packs quite the culinary wallop.

So European that traditional American drip coffee gets nowhere near the tiny storefront and espresso reigns supreme, the food is fresh and innovative Italian. Focused on creative small plates, panini, and tramezzini straight from the Italian peninsula, bold flavors such as goat cheese paired with eggplant and pine nuts dominate the menu. And the chefs apply sumptuous douses of truffle oil to many of their dishes (bonus!).

Famished, my boyfriend, my good friend Mike and I tucked into a brunch of bruschetta and panini fit for kings. The bruschetta plate (4 for $10!) offers about 12-15 toppings options – Mike and I selected carbonata with goat cheese, asparagus, pecorino and truffle oil, white bean and tomato, and butternut squash with pine nuts. All were supremely delicious in their own ways: savory, sweet, textured, zesty. Then, John and I both had the Italian Sausage and Egg Panino with Fontina. A little heavy on the egg and light on the sausage, this panino was very good but not excellent. I wanted more heft. However, in its defense, the eggs were fluffy and the bread tasted as though it were freshly baked. Mike had the Truffled Egg Toast, a decandent meal of egg stuffed in toast and doused with truffle oil. It was gooey, luscious, hearty, and a real crowd-pleaser.

In short, perfect for a satisfying brunch or a leisurely afternoon of snacks and treats, ‘ino delivers truly tasty food with elegant flavors in a relaxed environment. Don’t expect bells-and-whistles on the service front, kitschy Italian, or refined decor; ino focuses on the grub and the coffee.

A neighborhood favorite, ‘ino gets crowded at peak hours and you may or may not get smushed next to a set of pretentious euros complaining about Americans (the British snoot next to me couldn’t stop complaining that the menu said roooasted tom-ah-toes and not rawwww tom-ah-toes. Terrible.) However, ‘ino charms its way out of crowded quarters with its refreshing and surprising twists on the now-standard panino.

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