The Boston Phoenix
November 25 - December 2, 1999

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Il Panino

Getting sandwiched between Central and Harvard Squares

by Sarah Lariviere

Teeming with local police officers on dinner break, couples sharing bottles of Chianti, and linguini-slurping kids, the Cambridge branch of North End favorite Il Panino is always hopping. For 10 years, folks have been taking home or dining in on pastas to soothe the soul -- or at least coat it heavily in sauce.

Il Panino means "the sandwich," and at $4.75 to $4.95, the foot-long sandwiches here are one of the best deals on Mass Ave. Chewy-crusted bread holds an abundance of primo ingredients -- slippery prosciutto, fresh basil, tuna salad. Most pasta dishes come with a choice of red or white sauce, or garlic and oil, in a quantity ideal for sopping up with bread (free). Ziti with chicken and/or broccoli ($9.95) is just what you'd expect -- no need to think about it. Spinach ravioli is doused in thick, salty spinach gravy ($8.50). Garlic bread is pricey ($2.50) for two pieces of bread treated with butter and raw garlic, but order it anyway if you need a blood-cleansing punch. In the cold weather, it's probably best to avoid the mozzarella-and-tomato salad ($6.95) -- tomatoes, November, and the East Coast don't mix.

One more piece of advice: leave your credit card at home. Like its North End sibling, this joint is cash only.

Il Panino, located at 1001 Mass Ave, in Cambridge, is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sunday from 3 to 10 p.m. Call (617) 547-5818.

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