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Pancetta, Polenta and Panini in the Lowcountry
Panini's has been our favorite Beaufort, SC restaurant for years. There's no better view of the sunset over Waterfront Park and no comparable pizza for sure. Always trying to top their own success, they're serving new specialties this weekend for the Beaufort Shrimp Festival. The People's Choice winner for so many years we all lost count, and we'll see some serious competition again. The historic bank is a lovely building, easy to find downtown on the corner of Bay Street and within walking distance from any of the bed and breakfasts and a couple of hotels. Or walk up from the park to the back for casual outdoor dining during almost any season . The pizza and pasta have been my favorites, although the big salad and crusty focaccia have kept me happy for about a hundred lunches. Of course the panini needs no explanation -- plenty of varieties on the menu. Hoagies are on the new fall menu, and I'll be tasting the blackened flounder hoagie with caper remoulade sauce on my next lunch visit. The new menu features even more local seafoods with Nick's special touches. His heritage is Italian, and his thinking is Italian albeit with South Carolina lowcountry accents. My small plate order of peel and eat local shrimp, lager steamed with old bay, was a big meal for me. Nothing small about it. Plan on plenty of napkins and cold beverage too! It's spicy and just right. As an experienced critic of all things shrimp, I can promise the shrimp bisque on the starter menu is some of the best ever. The Italian taste is pepperoni. What a great combination! Any of the seafood tapas are tasty too, with more variety and unique presentation that you will find anywhere in town. Our friends who eat calamari everywhere they go will be right at home with the almond crusted dish and spicy aioli plus fra diavolo sauce. For dinner, everyone loves the Mediterranean Shrimp and Grits. It's simply made with pancetta polenta which is an improvement over many traditional recipes. One of my personal favorites is the new Flounder Francaise with lemon butter and almonds, plus pancetta polenta. If you crave paella, this is the right place -- the only place to fall in love! Know about my favorite dessert? Well, two or three actually, and they're here! Creme brule, tiramisu or chocolate panini, just for me. Yummmmmm Guess we'll be here a lot to sample more new dishes, but never too far from a mac and cheese (5 imported cheeses) or a Mediterranean pizza fresh from this brick oven. Hope we'll see you too!