Chef Sharron Barshishat brushed off the business advances of a culinary salesman as we arrived at Paninoteca Maggio. This was technically our third visit, but the previous two times they were either closed or ran out of food, “It's a very tiny place; there's only so much I can store.” Knowing how much us Forkers salivate over his coffee and pressed meals, he was pleased to sit down and chat about the future spot.
Most of his clientele already knows, despite doing little marketing. Although Yelp and the recent hire of a social media wrangler help, he admitted to being a control freak, but only in the kitchen– overseeing everything that crosses his counter. Sharron has no time to promote his establishment. When he vacationed in Italy for two weeks, chef temporarily closed down the restaurant. He couldn't afford to have a bad review. It's that important to him. “I'm very hands on like that. It's my baby, my first restaurant.”
In addition to sandwiches, Dave can attest to their great espresso. Sharron's favorite brand, he has Segafredo coffee beans flown in from Italy. He tries to keep things very simple, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. However, his staff knows to ask him if someone wants to switch ingredients. If he doesn't think it will taste good, he will politely decline the request. Sharron says that people appreciate the honesty, “We don't just throw everything in a sandwich. There's something (on the menu) for everybody.”
Chef was on the lookout for another location last year, and one of his regular customers turned out to be a developer working on a new project. The opportunity kind of fell in his lap. Naming it Paninoteca Maggio Due, it will be situated in the downtown Santa Ana area. Aesthetic features include a living trellis and being constructed out of actual shipping containers. With outdoor seating and the promise of a small plates dinner menu, it's simply a question of when. Originally anticipating a fall debut, it's looking like early 2014. Although once Due does open, Sharron intends to reduce the hours of his existing site to accommodate just a lunch crowd. Thankfully, he recently expanded his days of operation to include Mondays.
Barshishat stated that the community has been very supportive and embraces his business. He's both humble and lucky to be doing what he loves. He also believes that food is only 50% of a successful restaurant; the experience must also be there. “I'm not reinventing over here. Everything is very familiar. I'm just bringing very, very good ingredients in a sandwich.”