Centro Panini is an Italian sandwich shop located in an anonymous Woodbridge strip mall. Neither the concept, nor the menu are particularly unique in this neck of the woods ( California Sandwiches and Ricci's are both nearby), though the sandwich shop has amassed its own loyal following in the seven years since it opened.
Inside, the place is impeccably clean (like new even), though the decor is strictly utilitarian, furnished only with the basics lacking any embellishment. Ordering takes place at the counter, while 30-seats can accommodate expedited dining.
Take-away and catering accounts for the bulk of the business anyway, and I'm told that the family-run kitchen cooks and delivers hot lunches to schools in the neighbourhood.
Italian American standards like breaded chicken cutlets ($6.75), veal scallopini ($6.75) and meatball sandwiches ($6.45) are the house favourites, though the choices don't end there.
If carb-laden comfort foods aren't your thing then there are grilled selections like thinly pounded, thickly stacked steaks ($6.75), grilled eggplant sandwiches ($6.45) and chicken salads dressed with house-made balsamic vinaigrette.
Sandwiches can be customized to order with slices of provolone cheese (+$0.90) and fresh veggies like lettuce, tomatoes and mayo, or, the Classic Italian sandwich fixin's like sautĂŠed onions (+$0.30), mushrooms, rapini and sweet peppers (+$0.90). Medium or hot peppers can be added for no extra charge.
Lasagna smothered with sweet red sauce and sprinkled with parm proves to be truly delectable, but it's only available as a special on Thursdays for walk-ins. Family-sized tray (meat or spinach ricotta) can be ordered off the catering menu any time for pick-up.
The rest of the week, rice balls ($3.35) are a mighty fine way to get that cheese and sauce fix. Inside each arancini, you'll find mozzarella mingling with green peas and ground meat.
Centro Panini might not have the same name recognition that some of their competition enjoy, but seven years in business is proof they're doing something right... so is that chicken cutlet.
Photos by Jesse Milns