I am so excited to announce that twice a month, MichellePhan.com will feature content from our new food contributors, Lynnette Woo and Grace Su. These foodie bloggers will keep you up to speed on the best ingredients, food trends, and restaurants out there. For our inaugural post, Lynnette tells us about seeking out post-vacation food splendor.
I just got back from Italy. Or in other words, from a full week of sun-drenched Roman ruins, Florentine romanticism (and art museums, ancient architecture, specialty paper stores, leather markets, and handmade ravioli), and Tuscan countryside hospitality.
What I miss most though, is what the Italians call l’arte di non fare niente, the art of doing nothing. I miss nursing my steaming cappuccino – ordered before 11 AM according to strict Italian custom – and fresh-baked pastry, or basking in the throes of a food coma after lunch, content to sit back and people watch.
But after a brief holiday and the requisite recovery from jet lag, I find myself back home, back to work, and back to navigating the busyness of life amidst the urban and suburban sprawls of Los Angeles and Orange County.
Vacations, as we know, result in post-holiday catch up sessions. So I scheduled time off mid-week to meet up with a girlfriend for lunch. And like any self-respecting culinary connoisseur, I immediately consulted Yelp for ideas.
Enter Paninoteca Maggio. Located in a shoebox-like space across from Main Place mall, Cordon Bleu-trained Sharron Barshishat’s tiny Italian bistro is a hidden gem in a back corner of one of Santa Ana’s recently revamped plazas.
We ordered the sandwich that put Paninoteca Maggio on the map: the Toscana. Chef Barshishat – who, by the way, also serves up a healthy dose of Italian hospitality – takes choice cuts of pork belly and pork loin, roasting them with herbs and spices for hours, and then thin-slices the flavor-rich porchetta (pronounced “por’ketta”).
We grabbed our free San Pellegrino Aranciata sparkling sodas (hey, it pays to check-in on Yelp) and headed to the outdoor tables while he layered the savory porchetta with sharp arugula and mild lemon aioli, topped them off with pieces of crispy fried skin – just the right texture – and sandwiched them between slices of crunchy-soft panini-pressed bread.
Completely satisfied with our lunch, my girlfriend and I spent the next several hours basking in the afternoon sun, sipping Italian coffee, indulging in a creme fraiche-topped mini dark chocolate cherry pie, and enjoying our little taste of la dolce vita.
If you’re interested in visiting Paninoteca Maggio and having your own moment of l’arte di non fare niente, here is their information:
195 City Place Drive
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Open T-Sat, 10 AM – 4 PM
Which hometown foods do you crave after a long vacation?