Panettone Gastronomico

Panettone Gastronomico copy

Whether you call it a hoagie, hero, or sub, these (at least) three-foot-long sandwiches stuffed with a generous array of cold cuts and then some adorn the table of myriad American occasions, from graduation parties to office outings to barbecues.

Well, Italy also has a must-eat celebratory sandwich that’s particularly popular during the holidays: panettone gastronomico. A savory take on the sweet Christmas bread, panettone gastronomico experienced its heyday in the 1970s and 80s but remains in fashion today.

Instead of a three-foot horizontal loaf crammed with assorted cold cuts and some then some, panettone gastronomico is a towering triple-, quadruple-, or quintuple-decker (at least!) that you pull apart Jenga-style, taking from the top only. You can fill this cylindrical stack of quartered sandwiches with whatever you wish–prosciutto and mozzarella on one level with speck and brie on another, or opt for uniform layers of, say, mortadella and Squacquerone all the way through. When you look closely enough, you realize it doesn’t alternate layers of filling and bread; two slices of bread lie are “sandwiched” between each filled layer so that each individual sandwich is easy and mess-free to grab and eat.

Although making panettone gastronomico isn’t inherently complicated, the intricate process requires patience and a steady hand. For me, a pre-made one is the way to go, and Marcello Rapisardi’s Pasticceria e Dessert and Peck make some of the finest in town. If you want to attempt one at home, note that it requires a particularly savory panettone–not the typical sweet one. And it’s best to have the loaf pre-cut in a slicer unless you have the knife skills of a ninja. Cutting twice perpendicularly through a completed panettone gastronomico ups the chances of a collapse for the uninitiated. Still, there are indeed some deft home cooks out there who can do so effortlessly. But that’s not the only way–the trick is to prepare, cut, and stack the tartine (or sandwich layers) as you go–it’s best to quarter them, but if the filling isn’t too bulky, you can cut them into eights.

You can make a panettone gastronomico as high as you want–you can buy two loaves and set aside the top of the second one to build upon the first. You can also get creative with the fillings–it doesn’t have to be all meat. Lox and cream cheese and avocado and tomatoes are all fair game.

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