The Panini King of New York Rallies His Troops


The Panini King threw open the doors and started shouting before he even reached the front of the room. His troops in the storeroom had been anxiously awaiting his arrival.

"I want to own this city.

"I want Paninis in every deli in this city, and I mean every single one — uptown, downtown, midtown, in the furthest reaches of Queens to the end of the line in Brooklyn — wherever there is a deli, there are hot Paninis."

The troops started nodding.

"And I want Paninis front and center in the glass displays. I want signs in the front of the deli, over the counter and on the register. There should be Paninis and Panini signs in every deli on every block in every borough of New York City."

The Panini King, now standing dead center at the front of the storeroom, took a moment to survey his troops, for it would be up to them to make his dream come true.

"All this must happen over night. One day, people are in their delis grabbing the same old mayo and mustard drenched sandwiches on two plain pieces of food processed bread. But WHAM, the next day, they walk in and it's Paninis, Paninis and more Paninis. Pictures of Paninis on the walls! Paninis in the display cases! Paninis being pressed! The guys behind the counter shouting, 'Hot Panini!' And most importantly, Paninis being eaten!

"I shouldn't have to say this, but let me make this very clear," pausing for a moment, and then raising his voice considerably, he screamed: "Paninis are not sandwiches. Paninis are Paninis!"

The troops thought they should start clapping, but the Panini King didn't give them that extra second to actually put their hands together.

"I don't want people to go to lunch thinking, I'll just grab a sandwich. Those days are over. Over! But this isn't just about changing a mindset. This is about taking over. This is about conquering the sandwich.

"And to conquer the sandwich, we have to destroy it," he smacked his hands together. The troops' heads snapped back.

Almost whispering, the Panini King continued: "I want to destroy the ham-on-rye. I want to destroy the tuna fish sandwich. Egg salad? What the hell is an egg salad sandwich? Turkey, roast beef, salami ..." Getting louder now: "I want it all gone. I want these sandwiches to go the way of the PB and J. That's right, the good ol' peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Nobody sells these anymore. You couldn't give away a peanut butter and jelly sandwich even if you wanted to."

The Panini King squared his shoulders, and then surveyed his troops again. He made sure to make eye contact with each and every person.

And then, in a booming voice: "I even want to take down the pastrami sandwich!"

As if the floor suddenly dropped out from underneath them, a collective gasp sucked all the available oxygen out of the room.

The Panini King knew he had made his point. He relaxed a little.

One of the troops gave in to the easing of the tension and thought he would be funny. He opened his mouth and spoke without really thinking

"What about burritos?"

"Please," said the Panini King. "Everybody knows you can't get a decent burrito in this city."

"How about hot dogs?" said another of the troops.

"From the vendor carts? Those are for tourists. The closest thing to a New Yorker who eats hot dogs from a street vendor is an L.A.-based actor on a TV show set in New York."

"What about wraps?" one of the troops with a big smile on his face inquired.

"WRAPS?" screamed the Panini King. "Who said that?"

The troop member's big smile disappeared immediately, and he tried to hide his head behind his own collapsing shoulders.

"Wraps? Wraps? That's just a sandwich rolled up in paper! The wraps don't add anything, and instead, they take away — the flavors of the meats and cheeses and vegetables get sucked away by the horrid taste of what might as well be toilet paper."

If the Panini King hadn't been so sure of himself and the deliciousness of his paninis, his confidence might have been shaken. How could someone bring up wraps? The insult! The ignorance! He gave a look to the troops that made it clear he didn't want to hear about wraps ever again.

Then, with a voice of unwavering righteousness, he boomed: "The glory of the Panini on the grill must be seared into the lifeblood of this city's lunchtime routine! Forget the roast beef sandwich! Forget the BLT! Forget turkey, tuna and the ham-on-rye! Those are over! Those sandwiches are being sent to the land of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

"Hear me now: The Panini is already crowned king. I know that. You know that. But after the rest of the city knows, after we beat down the sandwich for once and for all, we're going after the real king of the hill: We're going to take down the slice of pizza!"

Everyone was already standing, but now they were standing taller, clapping and shouting, and screaming out, "Paninis! Paninis! Paninis!" They would continue to cheer and scream for some time. The Panini King had spoken.