Cut but not dry… The semi-spicy House Roasted Turkey panini’s scent wafts through the air.
Cut but not dry… The semi-spicy House Roasted Turkey panini’s scent wafts through the air.
Jillian Surla

Panini Pete’s serves New Orleans to Fairhope

French Quarter Feast

by Jillian Surla, editor-in-chief

What could be special about a little restaurant hidden in Fairhope’s French Quarter? Well, this little restaurant serves one of the most delicious–if not the most delicious–paninis I have ever tasted, proving Panini Pete’s is anything but ordinary.

A couple summers ago, I went to Panini Pete’s with a few friends. After years, I still couldn’t shake the taste of the dishes, so I decided to put my memory to the test by inviting my friend to join me for lunch. We agreed to meet downtown around 11 a.m. and make our way there together. Stepping into the French Quarter where Panini Pete’s is nestled is like being welcomed into a friend’s home. The flowers and fountain set the stage for a memorable dining experience, and that’s not even mentioning the adorable and well-loved cat that lives on the pathway. We were met by a polite host who informed us we would be eating in the solarium due to the full outside tables. As we walked to the clean and bright green building, we marveled at the ambient light coming from the windows and the fun plants hanging from the ceiling. Out of the eight tables, we chose the one closest to the alleyway so we could look out at the lush garden and foliage.

Pressed perfection… The Rosemary Chicken panini’s crispy bread flakes off with each touch; the freshly-made chips add the perfect texture combination to the homemade goat cheese on the panini. (Jillian Surla)

It was time for the moment I waited two years for: the food. I chose their House Roasted Turkey panini as my main dish. The mixes of turkey, baby greens, roasted peppers, dijon, garlic aioli, house-made mozzarella and fresh focaccia intrigued me. As for my side, I had the option to choose cut skinny fries, cut chips, salad greens, or Pete’s fresh side of the day: Orzo Pasta Salad. I chose the pasta salad, as I had never tried it before, and my friend said she adores a good one. When the food came by, I was surprised how delicious it looked, despite being placed on a simple basket and tissue. The triangle-cut panini gave a perfect view of each and every ingredient, and the colorful pasta salad made it difficult to wait in my seat as our runner ambled to our table. The panini’s taste exceeded my expectations tenfold; each bite was a flavor-packed revelation that blew me away, filled with the right amount of spicy tang and the perfect crunch of bread. The pasta salad, however, left me a bit disappointed; it felt too soft and the tastes blended together in a way I disagreed with. Hopeful that it was just my taste buds, I passed my bowl along to my friend, who also agreed it wasn’t very good. Though, that was quickly remedied as I took another bite of my panini and tried one of her fresh chips–perfectly crispy and lightly salted, just how I love them. Honestly, we joked about going back just for the fries.

Panini Pete’s offers more than just delicious food–it provides a true taste of Southern hospitality. The service was exceptional; our server was friendly, attentive, and eager to ensure we had a memorable experience. As she spoke about the specials of the day, she made sure to list all of the main ingredients, which I found helpful. We never had to call her over, as she always seemed to show up at the perfect time to refill our drinks or give us our checks. Our runner came with our food fairly quickly and carried the dishes on a large tray. My friend and I were surprised at how fast the service was, since we barely spent 40 minutes there altogether.

The experience is not only delightful but also surprisingly reasonable, especially for how well-made the food is. My panini and side were priced at $13.50 and the portion size let me put half away into a to-go box to be eaten as dinner, while my soft drink was valued at $3.50. Breakfast and lunch food ranges from $4.50 for beignets to the $13.50 I paid for my meal. At the maximum price of a meal  plus a soft drink, two people can eat for $34. Seeing as both my friend and I went home with a to-go box for dinner, the prices are satisfactory.

Well, I can hardly say I wasn’t expecting it, but whether I’m craving a comforting meal or simply seeking a taste of the South, Panini Pete’s is sure to have me coming back for more. I give it 9/10 stars and the promise to see me again soon.

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