Close to Italy
The deli, Tonio’s Paninoi, is drawing raves
photo by Elizabeth Maker
There’s a new deli in New Milford drawing raves for its simplicity and authenticity. Tonio’s Panino could be called the brother deli of Lucia Ristorante next door, since it’s named after Tonio Caldareri, the nine-year-old twin of Gabriella Lucia, who inspired the eponymous restaurant. “Tonio always said, ‘My sister gets a restaurant named after her, why can’t I?’” says Antonio Caldareri, who owns both places with wife Renee.
It’s a small space, with a few tables and a painted pie-tin ceiling. A blackboard lists 20 sandwiches, while a paper menu itemizes sandwiches, salads, and desserts. A glass case is full of meats, like Genoa salami and Parma procuitto; cheeses like fontina, gorgonzola, gruyere, and provolone. There are big, ripe tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and arugula from local farmers. While Renee was busy baking brownies, her husband, who learned to cook from his Italian grandmother, whipped up paninos that had gastronomes gushing. “The Caldareris are the best thing that ever happened to our culinary scene,” says John Imperiale, 94. “This is as close to Italy as you can get.”
My guest and I split a turkey with pesto, tomato, mozzarella, and avocado on focaccia, and a garlic peasant bread with chicken, mozzarella, and tomato. “This is life changing,” says my guest.
57 Bank St., New Milford