The problem with panini?*
They really only work out when a decent portion of cheese is used to adhere the bread and/or filling.
So, whenever I visit Bill's on Juniper and Sansom, I am again thankful that I am not quite vegan and will sacrifice a bit of gastrointestinal discomfort for the sake of a delicious lunch. Bill's offers an array of soups, sandwiches, and salads, but unlike typical Philly luncheons featuring cheesesteaks, hoagies, heavy Italian dishes, and greasy meat dishes, Bill stocks his kitchen with plenty of fresh ingredients and offers a wide variety of not-quite-vegan vegetarian options. His unchanging daily specials might as well be menu items, and I wish they were since they're my favorite selections: a grilled eggplant sandwich on a long roll with cheese and tomato sauce, and--my latest obsession--a panino of spinach, grilled peppers, tomato, and mozzerella or feta on Le Bus multigrain bread. I think the bread totally makes the sandwich. I get it with sharp provolone instead of the listed cheese options, since that tends to be (supposedly AND in practice) a little easier on the lactose-sensitive intestines. And it is d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s: grilled to a perfect golden brown, with just the right amount of veggies packed-in/spilling-out, all held together with a smooth, firm paste of melted provolone. After months (literally) of passing Bill and his specials sign, my taste buds discovered this concoction yesterday, and I went back today for another one since I liked it so much.
And an added bonus--the staff is delightful. Friendly, funny, and with the usual Philly brusque-ness but tempered by a congeniality that can be hard to find in this city. The woman who took my order checked with Bill, who was working the grill, to see if there was an upcharge for the cheese substitution (there wasn't), and she not only remembered me when I came in today, but remembered my beverage preferences (half lemonade, half unsweetened iced tea, not much ice, wedge of lemon). Service with a smile is refreshing these days (and especially in these parts), and Bill and company can count on many more visits from this non-vegan sandwich aficionado.
*PSA: "Panini" is in fact the plural of "panino." So you want a panino and we want panini. Si? Bene.