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Paninoteca Maggio: Paradise In Hell

[Hole In the Wall] This Santa Ana sandwich shop makes some of the best espresso in Orange County

A couple of years ago, Santa Ana officials proudly announced the opening of City Place, a bizarrely shaped development of live/work lofts ringing businesses, with more lofts in the back. They promised it would become another downtown, a shopping-and-dining destination the likes of which had never been seen in Orange County. It wasn't just the Great Recession that punctured this laughable hubris, but also horrible choices in restaurants by the developers: the execrable Geisha House, the laughable McCormick and Schmidt's, a Pinkberry that opened two years after the chain lost its relevancy. Sure, fellow tenants zPizza and Corner Bakery are fine chains, but there was no food renaissance, the condos went largely unsold, and City Place at night nowadays feels as eerie and desolate as the worst parts of Detroit.

Into this suburban nightmare came Sharron Barshishat with Paninoteca Maggio. I initially felt sorry for him and considered Barshishat a sucker for bothering to open a business here—and then I tasted the espresso, derived from a gargantuan machine out of a steampunk novel. It jolts but is more than a donkey kick to the senses: Paninoteca Maggio's espresso is creamy, earthy, just slightly bitter, a liquid live wire that rivals Portola and Keán for the best of its kind in Orange County. And then I tasted the namesake paninis—a small list that makes up for lack of choices with flavors that play off one another with the ease of a Puccini libretto. The Amalfi features salty prosciutto; musky mozzarella; biting arugula; and the tang of pesto, balsamic and tomatoes. The Toscana's slow-roasted porchetta radiates with garlic; a meatball sandwich is so fluffy and juicy you want to barge into the kitchen to see if Barshishat's nona is making everything. Add the snugness of its setting—a tall man could stretch out his arms and nearly reach the counter if he stood near the entrance—and the effusiveness of Barshishat and his staff, and Panoniteca Maggio quickly became a deserved sleeper hit.

Not everything is perfect: the Nutella-and-peanut butter panini, while tasty enough, is barely a step up from what moms slap together for their kids. The hours are maddeningly short, due in part to its desolate surroundings. And the talents of Barshishat are so evident you want him to expand beyond paninis and salads. All with due time, though: The miracle worker has only been open since spring.

Location Info

Map

Paninoteca Maggio

195 E. City Pl Drive
Santa Ana, CA 92705

Category: Restaurant > Deli

Region: Santa Ana

Details

Paninoteca Maggio, 195 E. City Place Dr., Santa Ana, (714) 426-8095; www.paninotecamaggio.com.

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This column appeared in print as "Panini Paradise In Hell."

 
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3 comments
spectroman71
spectroman71

What ocpaul said verbatim, and I don't live there.  I frequent the center at lunchtime from work, and I shop at Mothers at night and on weekends.  To call this desolate in any way is clearly ignorant - who is this writer?  Parking can be atrocious at times - is that the sign of a blighted shopping center?  I think not.  There are many very cool merchants in the lower level of the lofts if you just LOOK. Chipotle is coming soon next door to the Habit, which will, of course, do quite well.  All that's left is to fill the two chain spots.  Geisha House was awesome when it opened, but horrible customer service doomed it quickly.  McCormick & Schmicks (spell it right, people) were too high end for Santa Ana (so far).

Applebee's is also moving in to the former Spoons/El Torito spot in Main Place.  The Center directly across from the mall with Barnes & Noble is very busy as well.  This is a bustling area with tons of foot traffic and young people.  Get with the program, OCWeekly!

p.s. Heard the Target rumor, too, but REALLY hope it's a nicer department store instead.

eastforksupplyco
eastforksupplyco

 @ocpaul I think it's great that you put it into perspective. It's a great place to live/work, which is precisely why we recently opened up our boutique store in the complex. It's not a bustling complex as it was touted to be at the beginning but give it some time and the opening of other shops should help to bring some more life to the area. Hopefully Sharron's place will be just one of the great places to frequent in the City Place complex. -East Fork Supply Co.

ocpaul
ocpaul

Paninoteca Maggio definitely deserves the kudos of your article.  However, to depict the rest of the City Place development and the immediate surrounding area as “hell” is pretty ignorant.  Furthermore, it supports and perpetrates the ignorant stereotype that the entirety of Santa Ana is a dismal blight.   The entire development is maintained very nicely, trash free, brightly lit, with plenty of outdoor seating.  To compare City Place at night to the “worst parts of Detroit” is simply irresponsible and downright stupid.   For your information, the live/work lofts are quite innovative (the highest quality live/work lofts anywhere in Orange County) and are almost 100% occupied, Pinkberry is alive and well in this center, The Habit burger chain is bustling during both lunch and dinner hours, Mother’s Market is a destination market for many loyal health food customers and  Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf also adds nicely to the mix.  In addition, you’ve already mentioned that ZPizza and Corner Bakery do well.  True, Geisha House and McCormick and Schmidt’s have closed but if you had ever been to these places frequently, you would have known that they were both reasonably popular before they closed with young doctors and nurses from the nearby hospitals frequenting for happy hour daily.  The surrounding community of residents and workers are anxiously awaiting what will eventually take their places.  Even without these two current vacancies, the parking lot is already 100% full during peak business hours during the week.    Directly across Main Street, MainPlace mall has been undergoing a very nice renaissance with several new restaurants and rumors of a Target store replacing the space recently vacated after the two Macy’s stores consolidated into the larger space. 

 

It’s a real shame that you’ve chosen to give your readers the impression that City Place is a “surburban nightmare” which is far from the truth.  As you might have guessed, I happen to live in this development and every resident in this development LOVES living here because of the unique walking proximity to bright and clean shops and restaurants.   Guests to our loft have always commented that they would love to live here.  Although City Place might not be the “downtown destination” originally depicted by over the top marketing, it is undeniably a successful example of urban/suburban development that has brought together a nice mix of casual but premium retail brands and residential living into a plot of land that was previously unused.  

 
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