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Total Pig: The Saint of Sandwiches

June 20, 2007, 12:00 am
Daniela Torino makes exactly the kind of sandwich I've spent years searching for. I swear: One more turkey and green chile club on cold slabs of Roman Meal ***image2***and I was gonna go Atkins for good. I'm so tired of wimpy sliced bread that tastes like mattress stuffing, gummy yellow cheese and lunchmeats so processed they've taken on the texture of linoleum. Why can't Americans make a decent sandwich? It's the ingredients, stupid!

But sandwiches are only a small part of what Torino does. If I say private chef, they think I'm expensive, she explains in a charming, heavily-accented Italian staccato, and if I say caterer, then people think I only do parties. But then how do you describe someone who will drop off six sack lunches or stock your freezer with a week's worth of frozen manicotti, prepare a fully-stocked picnic basket for two or come to your house and make ravioli in front of your guests? Having tasted a wide selection of her sandwiches and pastas over the past few days, I'd describe her as a saint.

The Saint of Sandwiches (yeah, that's what I'm calling her) is from Torino (we know it as Turin), in the Piemonte region of Italy; her French husband, Maxime Bouneou, was recently promoted from pastry chef to executive chef at La Posada. Both are extremely talented cooks, but while Bouneou has spent most of his career in the kitchen, Torino has spent much of hers in the front of the house. For five years before starting her business, Torino's at Home, she was the cafe manager at Chocolate Maven. I'm sorry, Chocolate Maven, but your loss is our gain.

One day last week, Torino dropped by, unannounced, and delivered a box of four sandwiches: Panini con pollo, caprese, al prosciutto and pan
bagnat. I missed the chef herself, but after she was gone I beat my way through the crowd to see what she'd brought. Snuggled in a big white cake box were four sandwiches on what I thought at first were the mini paisano loaves from Sage Bakehouse (which are fabulous for sandwiches, by the way). But Torino says she buys the loaves frozen from a Colorado bakery and then finishes them in her own oven. The result is a crusty, substantial bread that holds up extremely well to transportation. The sandwiches in the box were quartered and I ate a quarter of each one.

The panini con pollo combines chunks of chicken with a delectable cilantro-chipotle aioli. For the caprese, Torino slathers the bread with a garlicky pesto, then layers fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, red bell peppers and sprouts, creating a meat-free sandwich that this committed carnivore loved. Although it sounded boring, the sandwich al prosciutto was surprisingly good, with fresh mozzarella, spicy mustard, roasted red bell peppers and whisper-thin slices of salty dry-cured ham. The pan bagnat (say: pahn bahn-YAH), a specialty from the Cote d'Azur, is the best I've had outside of France: a delicious jumble of tomatoes, cucumber, tuna, anchovies, hard-boiled egg, black olive tapenade and basil. I would have gone back for more, but then there was also tiramisu...

I hate to spend so much time just on the sandwiches, because they're such a small part of Torino's repertoire, but take my word for it, they are really exceptional. She tells me that she and her husband, who is a fine bread baker, would love to someday open a sandwich restaurant. Let that day come soon, I say! Her tiramisu is very good, too (and it takes a pretty damn good tiramisu to turn my head). I only wish it hadn't been frozen because the only thing I didn't like about it was the soggy texture of the ladyfingers. If I were to ask Torino to cater a party, I'd definitely order the tiramisuâ€"and I'd be willing to pay a little extra to get it fresh.

Speaking of paying extra, Torino's prices are extremely reasonable. Sandwiches cost $7. Adorable little individual portions of tiramisu are only $4.95. Individual portions of pastas like gnocchi alla Romana, lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs, nestled in microwaveable containers and vacuum sealed, range from $6.50 to $9.75. Entrees like eggplant parmigiana and chicken piccata are all well under $10. If you want to do a little of the cooking yourself, Torino sells uncooked ravioli ($7.55 per dozen) in six varieties and jars of her homemade sauces (from $6 to $13.95 per pint).

There is a small delivery fee for orders under $50, but if you can get your office mates together a day in advance for a lunch order, or if you're looking to stock your freezer for nights when you can't cope with cooking, it's worth it. Go to the Web site to see all of the menus. Otherwise, look for Torino's at Home sandwiches at Downtown Subscription (376 Garcia St., 983-3085), Meridian Espresso and News (228 Old Santa Fe Trail, 989-9252), and Vitamin Cottage (3328 Cerrillos Road, 474-0111. Vitamin Cottage also sells some of Torino's frozen pasta dishes.

Torino's at Home

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