Bread Winner

The panini, like pizza, is an Italian import; and like we did with those mozzarella pies, Americans have found many different ways to approach this sandwich. Fusion is the name of the game at Café Botticelli [306 West Gray, (713)533-1140], where they serve up the deceptively simple turkey club panini ($6.95). An elegant combination of smoked turkey, smooth provolone and a subtle olive dressing, this dish turns the whole sandwich concept upside down: It makes a stronger impression with its exterior ingredient than with the interior ones. The delicious bread is derived from the same dough that makes the pies at Botticelli's sister restaurant, New York Pizzeria; when cradled around the meat and cheese, the grilled slices provide both crunch and fluffiness. The sandwich may have little to do with traditional clubs, but it's a welcome (and healthier) addition to the pantheon of panini creations.

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Brenda Tavakoli