Italy does not do ordinary, Italy does just about everything -including life itself- with entusiasmo, passione, amore and stile. This is especially so when it comes to food and to sharing food with family and friends. Life seems to revolve around food and this is something to be taken seriously, so that it can be enjoyed with a pleasure that has deeper meaning, that is significant.

I grew up surrounded by Italians, in urban Melbourne in the nineteen sixties and seventies, some of my closest friends being the children of first generation Italian migrants; parents who were meticulously preserving the traditions of the old country, whilst embracing the new. Mealtime at their houses was always an adventure, watching their lunch pails at school filled me with initial wonder and eventual jealousy -my humble white bread sandwich soon looked like a poor fraud as the midday meal.

When it comes to Italian dishes, imitations are everywhere, copies that defame the very originals that inspired them. Great Italian cuisine has a sense of purpose and passion that cannot be imitated, it has a heart and a soul and an attitude that point blank refuses to be compromised, it simply must have this to be good, to be inspired, to be authentic. Italian food must always do more than sate,  it must bring pleasure, contentment, even happiness.

When it comes to lunch, this is the most important meal of the day and a humble sandwich simply will not satisfy, the midday meal should always be shared and never be rushed. Simplicity is fine with Italian cuisine, simply get the very best available produce and ingredients and simply let those elements shine.

Enter the humble Panini, the Italian term for sandwiches made from unsliced bread, (usually Ciabatta). They must be made with the freshest, crusty bread, the highest quality cured meats, the very best homemade tomato sauce, the finest artisan cheeses and the freshest picked greens. When authentic, they are so divine that they will leave your opinion of any other sandwich as something close to blasphemy.

Florence native, Chiara de Lucia is passionate about Panini, family, friends and life; her grandfather Da Sandro ran a delicatessen in Milan in the 1950’s, selling the fresh produce brought in by local farmers. Chiara’s Panini bar in BKK1 bares her late grandfather’s name -an appreciation and a dedication. Each panino on her menu is named after a dear friend or relative.

Breads are baked daily to Chiara’s own specifications, greens are selected every morning from the markets, the sauces are made in-house to family recipes and Chiara imports all of the cheeses and meats herself directly from Italy. This is entusiasmo, passione, amore and stile personified and it comes through in the ambience of the small shop, in the food on offer and in the experience of pausing for an authentic Italian lunch.

The Ciabatta is perfectly crusty on the outside and soft in the middle, the tomato sauce tastes fresh, pure and tangy, the greens are crisp and crunchy, the cheeses are sublime from pecorino, scamorza, mozzarella di bufala -such a rare delight to have some of these great Italian cheeses here in Cambodia. The meats: salami, Parma, smoked ham, pork sausage are incredible, incomparable. Da Sandro Panini Bar is empirical truth that life, love and authenticity imbue something more in food than just flavours and that patient dinning can bring so much more than a full stomach. Along with its great cuisine Da Sandro Panini Bar brings simple pleasure and heartfelt joy.

Da Sandro Panini Bar at #162 Eo Street 63. Open from 11.30am to 9pm, closed on Mondays.


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