Panini, Italian-style sandwiches that are pressed flat in a grill until they become hot and flat, have been a thing since the early 2000s. Lots of restaurants have them. But soon we will have a restaurant that devotes itself to this sandwich single-mindedly. Soon we will have Paninis Plus, a fast-casual concept opening in North Dallas, with an ambitious lineup of gourmet panini, salads, wraps and green drinks.
Founder Randy Collett is a restaurant-industry veteran who's worked at major restaurant groups like Chili's, Carrabba's and TGI Friday's, but he has been plotting this idea for years. He's using his operational know-how but with a concept that is healthy, using local produce such as Lemley tomatoes and bread from well-regarded bakery La Spiga.
"We gave careful thought to the composition of ingredients and the flavors," says founder Randy Collett. "We didn't just throw together a sandwich."
"I wanted to open a restaurant that was a healthier place to eat, that served things besides French fries and potato chips," he says. "I'll eat those things, but I would rather have a different option, like zucchini slaw or black bean and corn salad. We're making healthier food with gourmet ingredients and no preservatives."
His menu has panini, wraps and salads. Panini include a Cuban with pork, ham and Swiss; and a muffaletta with salami, ham, mozzarella, provolone and olive salad.
Tere is a large selection of vegetarian options as well, all well-conceived. The veggie panino has portobello mushroom, roasted red peppers, mixed greens and aioli — a nutritionally powerful assortment of ingredients that's a meaningful step up from more common veggie options such as zucchini and yellow squash. A number of items can be veganized, and most of his side dishes are dairy- and gluten-free.
"We gave careful thought to the composition of ingredients and the flavors," he says. "It had to taste good. We didn't just throw together a sandwich."
The restaurant is located at the northwest corner of Preston and Frankford roads, and will be open for lunch and dinner. "But we know that most of our crowd will be here for lunch," he says. "There are so many office buildings here, it's a great area to offer lunch."
If this one does well, he'll open another. As for panini, why panini?
"I've always thought that the people doing panini did a half-hearted attempt, and nobody ever did it really well," he says. "I really like grilled, hot sandwiches. A cold sandwich or wrap, I can make at my house. When you go out to eat, you want something you can't cook at home. That's what I’m trying to create: hot sandwiches and wraps with unique ingredients."