Totino, real name Salvatore Giammaria, has been in Shanghai for almost two decades and until July, had spent all of that time in the corporate world, managing factories across Asia, playing GM to 1,200 employees. But his real passion was cooking, and one morning, he told me, it just became too hard to wake up and go to work at his multinational company. “I became old,” he said. He thought, this is the last thing he’s going to do in life, so why not try to make it something he loves?
And sandwiches. The man loves sandwiches. He figured there weren’t many panini shops in Shanghai – there aren’t – and he’d do it his way, with real 18-month Parma ham, imported mortadella and other premium ingredients.
The sandwiches are good. I’ve been eating the traditional Parma ham with mozzarella recently (68rmb). Chinese customers mostly go for the Caprese with fior di latte mozzarella (40rmb). Italians, the Mortazza with mortadella and smoked scamorza cheese (58rmb).
His panini are large – “like 45 size shoes” – and he’s a stickler about them being just right. He refuses to do delivery: “I like people coming in.” He’s considering adding a press.
Most importantly, the guy is genuinely thrilled to be doing something other than corporate slavery, and told me several times how lucky he felt that he gets to do something he loves, working with his brother-in-law during the week and his wife on the weekends. He can pay the rent, pay for his daughter’s school, and make us all sandwiches.
“I will never get rich,” he told me, “but now I don’t mind getting up in the morning.”
Totino Panino, 235 Changshu Lu, near Huaihai Lu. Click here for details.