NEW YORK MINUTE: Freshly Made Home-Cooked Paninis (OAP)

(This feature was published in and Mercato Centrale last May 2, 2013; Photo from New York Minute Panini)

If I had a minute to go and grab something to eat, it would be some sort of all-in-one meal—like a sandwich. A more fun alternative would be the panini, Italy’s version of stuffed bread or sandwich, which typically uses ciabatta that is horizontally cut in half and filled with all kinds of meat and/or veggies and cheese.

I recently discovered a panini place in Cucina Andare, New York Minute Paninis, which offers eight different variants and creates them upon order. A must-try is the Empire Steak, a bestseller that has sautéed beef, bell peppers, onions and mozzarella cheese. Their version of the classic Philly cheese steak is spot on with the delicious combination of the beef, veggies and the melted cheese. This is a panini that would satisfy even those with big appetites!

Another specialty is the Brooklyn Bird that combines grilled chicken, mozzarella, pesto and tomato slices in its filling. I like the traditional chicken-pesto combo where the basil gives a fresh flavor to the sandwich. Vegetarians may opt for the Veggie Delight panini that is totally meat-free, or the Fantastic 4, which features four kinds of cheeses. I found out that the names of all the variants are based on places in New York or movies that feature the Big Apple. It was actually the idea of Maxine Marcelino, the young entrepreneur who conceptualized the business at 18 years of age.

“I’m in college right now and I wanted to do something else on the side. So I told my parents that I wanted to do it and they told me to make a concept.” The parents of Maxine are in the catering business and are already serving two kinds of paninis. “I was looking for a concept and I wanted to make the name creative. Last year, I went to New York with my family and the place was so fresh on my mind. When I was conceptualizing I thought maybe New York theme na lang.”

It was in September 2012 when Maxine was able to finalize her business concept, and after a month or two, she joined Mezza Norte. She launched her first solo food business venture while still in school. Although it was difficult to balance school and work, she was able to do so with the help of her supportive parents. Her mother trained her cooks to prepare everything, and Maxine takes charge of the selling, although she can assemble her own paninis as well.

This 18-year-old mans the stall and makes it a point to talk to customers. “I find myself drawn to booths when I see the owners there so I make it a point to be always there.” She would sometimes go around the weekend market—with her small signage in tow—and offer her products to potential customers. That’s how she believes in her products, and it’s also a way for her to help customers decide what they want.

New York Minute Paninis are reasonably priced at P100 each, and it also offers Quesadillas that are jam-packed with choice toppings such as chicken, beef or vegetables. These are also made on the spot so you’ll be assured of its freshness.