After staying home with a son and two daughters, Linda Skoczek was ready for a new direction. She had worked part time during those years for Peter’s Palate Pleaser, and she also did a little catering herself from her Berkley home. But she had never jumped in with both feet. With the kids brought up, she decided to go ahead with her long-held dream of opening her own little restaurant.
But what, exactly?
Nothing fancy, of course. She had always appreciated a good sandwich, and thought an alternative to the sub-shop variety would work. Then inspiration struck. “It just seemed to come to me,” she says. “From the name to the concept, it all seemed to flow. It took about two hours.”
The idea was to offer panini, the grilled sandwiches that originated in Italy. She started searching for a location, driving all over town — only to end up back in Berkley, two minutes from her house, when she spotted an empty storefront in the little strip mall across from Shrine Catholic Grade School, which her children had attended.
To underscore the personal, non-commercial touch she wanted, she had the interior painted in soft Tuscan colors, and decorated the walls with evocative photographs from Italy.
With that, The Panini Press was born, opening in July of this year. She named the sandwiches for newspapers (press, get it?), being careful not to violate any copyrights. Her son, Tim, who works in the Obama administration as a press aide, did the research for her, while she came up with the sandwich varieties to reflect the names.
For instance, the sandwich called the Tucson Tribune includes grilled breast of chicken, grilled onions, and bell peppers, Monterey Jack cheese, and her own spicy southwest mayo. Another, the Key West Courier, delivers albacore white tuna, sweet onion, and celery, topped with cheddar cheese.
The Traverse City Times has Black Forest ham, brie, Granny Smith apple, and sweet mustard sauce. Sauces are all house-made, and ingredients are local whenever possible.
There are just nine sandwich varieties, along with a childrens’ menu that includes peanut butter-and-jelly and grilled hot dogs. Panini (the plural of panino) may be ordered on a variety of breads: ciabatta, Italian, or multi-grain, and white or whole wheat roll-ups. There’s a gluten-free option, too.
Skoczek is hoping that The Panini Press is just the first of a small, homegrown chain. “Maybe two more,” she says.
The Panini Press, 28983 Woodward at 12 Mile Road, Berkley; 248-547-7377. Open daily, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.