We love a sub as much as the next guy, but for something authentically Italian, we can’t help but think that a warm, freshly grilled panino is the sandwich to beat. These panini are some of our favorites around the region.
505 Maple Ave. West, Vienna
This Italian market stocks a wide collection of products from the old country, from chocolate and tea to sauces and seasonings. The freezer is filled with prepared red-sauce meals, while the case boasts other freshly crafted foods.
Eat This: The porchetta panino doesn’t need fancy cheeses or spreads—all it requires is a well-grilled roll to absorb the juices from the slices of imported pork flavored with fennel, garlic, and a touch of rosemary.
2985 District Ave., Ste. 190, Fairfax; 621 Wythe St., Alexandria
New Englanders rejoice to enter this deli and market that recalls the kind of spot you might find in Boston’s North End. Louis Prima pipes in with odes to “Mambo Italiano,” and cannoli fill the case.
Eat This: We like to keep it simple with prosciutto and milky mozzarella. Arugula adds a delicate, vegetal crunch, but the salty ham is the star here.
1006 Caroline St., Fredericksburg
This is a stylish restaurant that also sells wine and other Italian products. In the warm months, dine in the brick-lined courtyard, or stay inside and study the regional map of Italy.
Eat This: Looking for something a bit more complex? For those times, we’re mad about the melanzane e caprino option here. As the name states in Italian, the sandwich includes both grilled, marinated eggplant and goat cheese, but there are also roasted red peppers, arugula, and balsamic reduction.
21430 Epicerie Plz., Sterling
The coffee and baked goods on the counter here will catch your eye (and your nose). Head outside to dine on the plaza or to the covered, heated patio area with your sandwich and, yes, a cookie or two.
Eat This: Provolone and mozzarella bind the roasted chicken between the crisp, hot layers of sourdough. Roasted mushrooms elevate it from basic to an eat-with-your-hands version of chicken Marsala.