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Panini is a fresh, stylish addition to downtown

Upscale ambience, generous portions

Thank heavens we finally have a replacement for Il Sansovino in the now Wells Fargo building in downtown Salt Lake City. I was sad to see that one go a while back. But fate sometimes has a way of turning things around for the better.

And now we have Panini, the Italian-named restaurant with a modern continental/seafood theme.

Panini is a fresh addition to downtown dining offerings. The food is the caliber one would expect in that venue, as are the prices and ambience. The menu is sizable and offers many interesting selections that make choosing a little tough. But the food is not tough to like once you are served.

My husband Gary and I snacked on the generously piled smoked-salmon bruschetta with boursin cheese and balsamic sauce while we waited for entrees. Delicious.

Next we shared a salad of roasted duck, gorgonzola cheese, craisins, granny smith apples, toasted almonds and a very subtle anise dressing. Fantastic combination.

We skipped wood-fired pizzas for the night and moved to pasta, which was also a treat. Our choice was the free-range Buffalo-stuffed tortelloni with meat sauce. This was a hearty, rich sauce that looked at first glance to be spicy. I braced myself and found it to be relatively mild.

Entrees for us were the crab-stuffed halibut with lemon-basil butter sauce and the pepper steak. The generous portion was tender and savory. I loved the tender-crisp baby green beans with peppers and onions on the side. The hefty 14-ounce pepper steak was topped with fried onions. I kept searching for a rich reduction to accompany this beauty, but it had a grilled-with-cracked-pepper treatment instead. Still, it was cooked exactly to my preference, medium-rare.

On another trip I would try the wood-fired pizzas. Selections such as chicken and wild mushroom or smoked salmon with garlic cream, spinach and onion confit sound really great. I would also try more of the pastas, perhaps with butternut squash and portabella ravioli, or the linguini Gamberetto with jumbo prawns.

Just from the looks of it, I would recommend the Tuscan fisherman's stew, with lobster, mussels, clams, shrimp scallops and halibut. It sounds fantastic. And the early bird specials of sole, salmon or prime rib, complete with beverage, soup or salad, and choice of potatoes or rice, seem to be a good value Those would be hard to choose, though, over the sauteed duck breast with cabernet reduction and fried yam straws.

Having another restaurant downtown with a menu dominated by seafood is not a problem for me. Panini will give others a dose of healthy competition.

I like the look and feel of Panini, I like the menu. It's a great addition to downtown, so that diners and other restaurants serving seafood may well sit up and take notice.

Prices for appetizers on the dinner menu range from $7.99-$9.99, soup $2.99-$4.99, salad $12.99, pizza $9.99-$12.99, pasta $13.99-$31.99, earlybird specials (5-7 p.m. nightly) $14.99, entrees $18.99-$21.99, seafood specials $17.99-$22.99.


Panini

**** (out of five)

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Location: 299 S. Main St., Suite 250

Phone: 535-4300, 364-2226

Payment: major credit cards

Reservations: recommended for weekend evenings

Internet: www.panini.us

Other Services: takeout


Stephanie Tanner-Brown is a free-lance writer and designer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-MAIL: stephanie@desnews.com