To this day one of the most oddest sandwich shops I have ever step foot in was in Rome very near to my hotel, the Holiday Inn Express where we admittedly cheaped out on our hotel accommodations. You can read my post regarding my mixed feelings about my time in Rome but I know it was in relation to our hotel location. The hotel was comfortable enough with only mild mold surrounding the tub insert. The complimentary breakfast was powdered eggs, cheap pastry knockoffs and coffee that comes from a growling machine seizuring at the push of a button to secrete a sad cappuccino.
When we decided to meander around our neighbourhood and see what restaurants were close we walked down a road where there were three loud bangs that echoed off the concrete and screaming. When the banging noises were done the screaming was through as well. We stopped in our tracks with a couple of other Romans and tourists all looking to each other to see if we had heard the same thing then immediately turned back. Like in any city be weary of all hotels cheap, there’s undoubtedly a reason and it is usually location.
Despite our weariness of our neighbourhood it was my first time in Europe and with it came experience. I learned to navigate the easy metro system in Rome and stayed away from using cabs – beware of the unofficial cabbies in Rome, they’ll rip you off. I avoided the free breakfast and opted for a banana and a few pastries from nearby cafes which you can read about here. I learned to pack lighter, breathe easier in the face of uncertainty and let myself go with the flow. I also learned to try new things which brings me back to the oddest place I ever ate.
Just down from my hotel entrance was, and still is, the Paninoteca L’Incontro, a sandwich shop that promises “l’incontro,” an encounter. My boyfriend and I entered the doors into a small space where plenty of locals waited for their orders and even more had yet to have their order taken. The place smelled of onions, fresh bread and baked beans which was oddly comforting coming in from the bipolar weather. The floors were staggered white and blue tile, the kitchen before us was an old fashioned baby blue sandwich bar that at one time had probably served gelato when Audrey Hepburn was running around the streets of Rome with Gregory Peck. A 15 inch television in the upper corner of the wall was fixed into place just above the bread slicing station. It was playing the 1973 film My Name is Nobody dubbed in Italian and directed by director Enzo Barboni who was born and raised in Rome.
Not knowing much of the Italian language besides vino bianco I blindly stared at the small menu taped to the glass of the sandwich bar. There were about 9 to choose from each with a description in Italian and a photo of a character from the Trinity Series (which played on the television) of which I am very familiar since my dad is a fan of the films in which beans play an important part of the characters’ diet and adds some flatulent humour in the mix of the Spaghetti Western.
Very confused at the theme of this sandwich shop I decided to pick my sandwiches by character and order the Panino Trinita and the Panino Bambino, figuring that the best sandwiches must be reserved for the lead characters. We watched our massive sandwiches being created through the glass and found that majority of each our sandwiches were composed of beans – a main-staple in the western Trinity films.
We parted ways with Panino L’Incontro and trotted back to our hotel sandwiches in hand feeling like weights to tone our biceps with. I figured it would also act as a good weapon should we get lots on the wrong side of the tracks which was quite possible as the metro track was directly behind the building of our hotel. I wondered how I would ever finish even a quarter of my sandwich filled with lots of beans, spicy salsa and other forms of antipasto-like toppings. Surprisingly my boyfriend ate half of each and we were in need of a nap before heading back to the Colosseum that night. The food was enough to fill our bellies until the next morning and keep our wallets a wee bit fuller. It was healthier than your average fast food restaurant and better yet not geared towards tourists which reflected within the price. But what really stuck in my head about this restaurant was the discovery of the massive following of the Trinity series in Italy. Despite how many times I watched the Trinity films I was unaware of the Italian connection. Of all the sandwich joints in all the world it is even more of an odder coincidence that I was to stumble inside that day – a completely spontaneous decision. I love when travel leads you to unexpected places.
Where’s the oddest place you’ve ever eaten?