By Arren Kimbel-Sannit | Phoenix New Times
Press Italian Street Food owner T.J. Coffey may not be Italian, but he says the food his truck serves is Italy’s traditional street fare — with a personal, in his case, American twist.
He was inspired to start the truck by his love for Italian cuisine, and after cutting his teeth at restaurants including the now-closed Tempe icon Monti’s, Scottsdale’s Local Bistro, and North Italia, opened Press along with chef Gerald Allen in April 2014.
Coffey says Press was the Valley’s first panini truck (though others have opened since 2014), but the truck doesn’t serve panini exclusively. The pressed sandwiches make up a good deal of the menu during lunch hours, but for festivals and private events, Coffey says he likes to put out smaller, more formal plates like pastas and a daily soup. The signature item, however, is the panino.
“Panini are kind of traditional Italian fast food,” Coffey says.
You can see Coffey’s personal influence on the menu in the truck’s less-than-traditional items, such as the loaded potatoes: sliced fried potatoes with Gorgonzola sauce, pancetta, and green onions. The same can be said for the mac ‘n’ cheese, which comes topped with a mix of Gorgonzola, Parmesan, and jack cheese, as well as a rotating market protein.
The Press menu is actually quite large, though only small selections are available at a time, depending on seasonal local availability and setting. For example, if you happen upon Press around midday in a medical center parking lot, there won’t be a menu of intricate pastas, but there will be a tasty looking array of panini served on toasted sourdough from local bakeries including Jonathan Robins and Noble Bread.
Coffey tries to source locally as much as possible and gets his produce from local farmers markets and even his own backyard — the figs, basil, and tomatoes, for example, all come from his garden. Sausages and some other meats come from familiar local sausage maker Schreiner’s Fine Sausages.
Press’ pork panini, made with porchetta, provolone, red cabbage, arugula, and an onion jam pressed between two slices of sourdough is a personal favorite. The porchetta and onion jam erect a sweeter front, cut by the bitterness of the arugula and cabbage. Accompanied by a side of loaded potatoes, the dish may not seem like a serving any larger than anywhere else, but the food is seriously rich, and one order ends up being filling.
And for the future of Press? Coffey says he hopes to open up a brick-and-mortar location with the same concept.