Sign In


New Sandwiches: Totino Panino, Rozebiff, Sub Standard

Three new owner run sandwich shops around town ... well.... Jing'an.
2024-04-17 12:00:00

The modest and humble sandwich, a staple of the working-class diet worldwide, typically consists of two slices of bread with filling in between. Sometimes, it receives a bad reputation in China. It is easy to view it as the ultimate symbol of the typical quick Western diet on the go, unfairly disparaged as a kind of "lunch of suffering" by some. However, for those of us who grew up eating sandwiches and hoagies of all varieties, we know this isn't true at all. An endlessly versatile and unpretentious dish, a well-made sandwich can really hit the spot culinarily speaking and satisfy even the most discerning food connoisseurs.

So, where should you go in Shanghai when you're craving a really good sandwich? There are numerous options, and many have come and gone over the years, but here are three that have just opened this year alone:

Totino Panino

Taking over the Gin & Juice location in Shankang Li, with the likes of Alimentari Grill and Homeslice as its new neighbors, Tonino Panino is back with a larger space and elevated concept.

When last we reported on Chef Salvatore Giammaria (aka Totino or Toto), it was a few years back. He had just made the life-altering decision to leave his corporate job at a multinational company to open his own small panini sandwich shop. The original Totino Panino, located behind the entrance of the Changshu Lu Metro Station, was a modest shop, around 30 square meters with a very small kitchen.

Since then, the shop has steadily built up a loyal customer base, a special community of foodie friends. Totino is affable and charismatic, he likes to joke, so you'll often see him chatting with regulars. "We are the friendly shop on the corner, near your house. This is Totino Panino. This is what we have been working on since 2018," says Totino, "If you have the best food in the city but the mood is not the right one, people might try it one time but never come back."

The new space is snazzy, it feels like a cross between the local neighborhood pub and a gourmet sandwich shop. It's urban and contemporary in decor, airy with bifold-style windows that open up - nice for conversation and drinking with friends. There is a back patio corridor that connects with Shankang Li, for those who just want a quick drink or maybe just prefer the alternate view into SKL.

The sandwiches, of course, are exceptional, but not cheap. Their best-selling sandwich is the traditional ham & mozzarella (80rmb), topped with fresh tomato and arugula. They use a Serrano dry-cured ham - saltier than Italian ham, but well balanced with the sweetness of the tomatoes and the mozzarella. The toasted ciabatta, freshly baked every day and supplied by a vendor in Shanghai, has a very satisfying crispiness. Also recommended is their porchetta gourmet (93rmb), a panino with roasted pork, arugula, truffle cheese, roasted bell peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes.

On the weekends, Totino does a very limited-supply specials menu, with items not on the usual menu during the rest of the week. Special weekend dishes can include fried codfish with polenta flour, eggplant parmigiana, lasagna, and meatballs. On the day we visited, Toto treated us to a plate of supplì al telefono (pictured), a Roman-style deep-fried rice croquette filled with mozzarella.

The new Totino Panino, more than twice the size of its predecessor, also seems particularly well-suited for private events. Its an inspiration to see someone like Toto leave the corporate world at the age of 50 to pursue a dream, and succeed in it. Much respect.

Totino Panino - 358 Kangding Lu. Full Listing & Details here.

Sub Standard

Next up is the new-ish Sub Standard, a sandwich joint that opened back in January by one of Shanghai's well-known chefs Jason Oakley. A Michelin-caliber chef, Jason formerly worked at The French Laundry in Napa Valley, was executive chef at the Mandarin Oriental's Fifty 8 Grill, and was head chef at Scarpetta and Coquille, later to become a partner at Cages. Opening his own sandwich shop has been a long-time dream of his.

A nice play on words, Sub Standard is actually far above the sub standard, setting the bar quite high now for sandwiches in Shanghai. On the menu are ten sandwiches, including classics like the Italian, roast beef, ham & cheese, chicken club, corned beef, and more. I sampled about four different sandwiches in one sitting, and they were all superb. Unexpectedly they evoked nostalgic food memories for me, taking me back to the best first sandwiches I had growing up in the US – in NY delis and sandwich shops in California and NJ.

The shop is "cozy" i.e. small - I almost didn't even notice it when I first passed by. Most of its business is delivery or takeaway orders, although you'll still frequently see the three bar stools near the window, occupied. Walking in, you get a direct view into the kitchen, a 20 square meter space that Jason carefully measured prior to leasing so that he could "basically build a bakery, get in a mixer, an oven, make dough two times a day" and just get the sandwich-making operation going.

"We specialize in just proper well-made deli sandwiches," says Jason. Everything is fresh at Sub Standard, there isn't even a freezer in the whole joint. They start baking the bread every day at 6:30am and get everything else delivered in the morning. They process it and go through it, bake a second batch mid-day "to really drive home that freshness", sell out by the end of the day, and do it all over again the next day.

Lots of things to notice about these sandiwches. Memories: the crispy shredded lettuce drizzled in vinegar oil in the Italian hoagie, and the mix of pickled banana peppers and caramelized onions doused in cheddar cheese on their steak & cheese sandwich (88rmb). Every sandwich worked some kind of magic, and we will likely eventually work our way through the entire menu. The Italian hoagie (68rmb) is my current favorite, but the F-bomb served with a fluffy focaccia bread (currently only available on Fridays) is also a must-try. The Italian sausage smash (58rmb) is also one of their biggest sellers: a sandwich featuring a halved sausage pressed with charred broccolini and harissa aioli.

As a side note, they also do artisan pizzas and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Similarly, these evoke pure nostalgia and really take you back. There is a more-ish quality in the honest, unpretentious comfort food that Sub Standard offers, and indeed, they get a lot of repeat customers on Eleme and Meituan. This one's got "national expansion" type vibes. Recommended.

Sub Standard - 230 Wanhangdu Lu. Full Listing & Details here


There's also an eye-catching diner in Jing'an called Rozebiff, which had a grand opening earlier this month on April 8, after an extended slow opening since February. This is the first offering from Chicago native and former Da Vittorio sous-chef Jimmy Shi and his partner Edison Liang. Similarly, Shi and Liang have made the switch from Michelin-grade fine dining to focus on building a simple American-inspired sandwich shop.

The decor is a retro American diner, with red bar stools, shiny red countertops, and diner-style napkin holders. The vibe is hip, urban and young, while many of the design decisions are pure vintage Americana and colorful pop art. The culinary inspiration for Jimmy though is the classic mom-and-pop sandwich shop, where everything is fresh and high-quality, including freshly baked bread and premium imported beef.

Originally they wanted to name the restaurant Hangover. "It all started one day when one of my friends and I were out drinking (in Shanghai) and I couldn't really find a good sandwich spot," says Jimmy, "Back in Chicago, when we would drink a lot, the next day we'd always go and eat a sandwich, or something that's heavy that could cure the drinking." Not being able to find a good Philly cheesesteak or Italian beef sandwich in the Hai inspired Jimmy to open his own sandwich spot. Since 2022, he and his partners started planning the restaurant, looking for locations, sourcing the right beef and ingredients, and getting the right flattop from the US to get the perfect sear they desired on the beef.

On the menu is the classic Philly cheesesteak (58rmb), with imported Australian beef chuck, onions, green pepper, and Provolone cheese. Chef Shi's take was to make the cheese fondue-style, stretching it "to the point where you can almost see through it". The Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich (56rmb), made with slow-cooked wagyu beef, Italian spices, and giardiniera, was inspired by Jimmy's time in Chicago and especially during his years at culinary school when he often frequented Mr. Beef, the legendary street food stand, which specialized in Italian beef.

Another highlight in the menu is a classic Cubano sandwich (58rmb) with braised pork shoulder, prepared in a style, with French-cooked ham, Provolone cheese, pickles and mustard. Rounding out the menu are delicious sides like beef empanadas, duck-fat fried chicken, and French fries. The horchata is also good horchata.

This joint is pet-friendly, and looks like it has the makings to become a neighborhood hangout.

Rozebiff - 459 -5 Shanxi Bei Lu. Full Listing & Details here