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Florentine Panini Joint Opens First Stateside Shop in Midtown

 Vinny Dautaj and Michael Grant, cofounders of the first stateside location of 70-year-old Florentine Panino shop Antico Noé, enjoy their fare at their new spot in Midtown.
Vinny Dautaj and Michael Grant, cofounders of the first stateside location of 70-year-old Florentine Panino shop Antico Noé, enjoy their fare at their new spot in Midtown.
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Antico Noé

MIDTOWN EAST — A little bit of Italy has made its way to Midtown.

Antico Noé, a 70-year-old Florentine sandwich shop, opened its first stateside location at 220 E. 53rd St. between Second and Third avenues on Monday, bringing Tuscan panini to the Midtown masses.

The menu at Antico Noé keeps it simple with 10 panini ranging in price from $9.50 for a caprese panino with tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella to $13.50 for a prosciutto panino with arugula, rabiola cheese and truffle oil.

Decked out with prosciutto, salami, stuffed chicken and roast turkey, most of the panini on the menu are good for a meat lover — and for authenticity’s sake there are no substitutions, although customers are trusted enough to choose between Florentine white bread and seven-grain.

The eatery also offers three salads ranging from $4.50 for an order of caprese skewers to an arugula, pear, and goat-cheese salad for $10.50.

Florentine bread doesn't have much salt in it, dating back to a medieval salt tax, so before pressing it has a fluffy, hero-like texture. But once the panini are tossed in a press, they take on the appearance expected by customers with a flat sandwich in mind.

Co-founder Michael Grant first discovered the original Antico Noé panini shop near the Piazza San Pier Maggiore in 2007 when he was studying abroad in Florence, and quickly became a regular there. So years later when he found out an old friend from Florence, Vinny Dautaj, had moved to New York, the two began discussing how they might be able to bring their old haunt to Manhattan.

The pair approached the owners of the original shop, and eventually convinced them that with Grant’s finance sector-honed business sense and Dautaj’s experience working in Florentine restaurants they would be able to do the famed panini shop justice on this side of the Atlantic, Grant said.

After negotiating the contract, Dautaj headed to Florence for the summer of 2014 in order to learn everything he could about Antico Noé’s panini process, bringing back recipes and old-world sandwich wisdom, he said.

“We know we have a duty to the founders and the followers of Antico Noè to replicate the amazing panini and experience that has become such an integral element of Florence over the last 70 years,” Grant said. “We can’t wait to share the authentic Tuscan panini with this side of the world.”

The sandwiches are true to their Florentine inspiration, Grant said, but he did adjust the operation in a few ways to work well in Manhattan, including contracting a bakery in Brooklyn rather than baking onsite.

Panini eaters in Florence might be willing to wait for their sandwich to be made from scratch, but due to the level of patience inherent to Manhattan lunchers, the Midtown shop operates on a "prep, press, serve" operation, with the sandwiches being assembled in the morning and tossed into the press as they're ordered.

“In Midtown they want food good, but they want it fast,” he said.