Lunch Pick

WEEKLY LUNCH PICK: Lobster melt and an “affogato” at Merivale Fish Market’s offspring, Luigi Panini

Lobster overboard! Take a bite of this gooey panini before the lobster sneaks away.

A sweet new sandwich shop has popped up on Merivale Road, next door to The Merivale Fish Market that has been a fixture in this spot for almost 20 years. Luigi Panini is a great example of a “next generation” eatery, where the children of long-time Ottawa restaurateurs grow up and get into the business themselves.

In this case, Anthony Epifano is the son and nephew of the family-owners behind the fish market. He and his pal Andrew Fisher (both Algonquin culinary program graduates) run the new lunch counter that doubles as an espresso bar and gelateria (serving a limited selection from Pure Gelato).  The “Luigi” in the name is Epifano’s grandfather.

Colourful quinoa hits the spot.

The open concept means you can watch as lunches are prepared fresh to order on crunchy-chewy ciabbata bread from Art-Is-In Bakery. Knowing that seafood would come from serious purveyors next door, it was a toss-up between the daily special, fish tacos, and the lobster melt.

The sandwich won out: it combined large  chunks and shredded pieces of lobster — including the hilariously sinister-looking meat of the entire tiny claw — with a soft, gooey layer of cheese (a mild, slightly nutty mélange of havarti, mozzarella, and gruyere). As a rich lobster grilled cheese it was good — but for me it seemed to be missing a fresh contrasting element like tomato or greens, even avocado, to make it memorable. No matter, equilibrium was restored with a lovely homemade quinoa salad studded with sweet potato, black beans, and sweet peppers. The water dispenser filled with floating lemon slices further attests to the attention to detail here.

I am compelled, however, to offer a word of warning to lovers of the classic sandwich combo of mozzarella, tomato, and basil. The Caprese Panini here gets a surprise smear of chopped garlic (and plenty of it), which might not suit all tastes. Next time I will ask for it to be left off.

Two great tastes that taste great together: espresso and gelato.

Espresso fans should not miss the affagato — a shot of dark espresso served with a scoop of gelato. The vanilla gelato was sold out so I opted for Bacio (chocolate hazelnut) and the combination was sensational.

Cost: panini $5-$14, salads, $4, affagato $5.

Luigi Panini, 1482 Merivale Rd., 613-762-2280.

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