Panini Pete Does Mobile
Almost six years ago a CIA grad named Pete Blohme opened a casual little sandwich shop in the Fairhope French Quarter. Blohme’s “everything from scratch” approach was a refreshing addition to the Mobile/Baldwin dining scene. His mixture of upscale ingredients and novel flavor pairings were tailor made for the artsy Eastern Shore crowd.
The chef’s panini were so good that people started to take notice. Important people, like the Food Network. A few years ago Panini Pete’s was featured on the hit food/travel show Diners, Drive Ins & Dives. Pete and host Guy Fieri made fast friends and it is a friendship that has open a few doors. Doors I’m sure Pete had never even considered back when he was the Executive Chef at the University of Alabama.
Since being featured on Triple D, Blohme has appeared on numerous TV shows on the Food Network and CMT. He is also a member of Fieri’s culinary caravan called the Traveling Road Show and a member of America’s Chefs, a group performing cooking demos for and feeding our troops.
Pete’s fame these days is enough that he is bringing his act across the bay to the state’s second largest city, Mobile. Occupying the old Loretta’s space in the heart of LoDa. It’s a prime location with a lot of history, the perfect fit for the guy who has reinvented the sandwich.
For the second week in a row downtown Mobile has been treated to an age old tradition that is rarely seen in South Alabama, the soft opening. Last week it was Culinard’s new training restaurant the Kitchen on George this week it was Pete’s place.
The interior is comfortable and trendy while the exterior is pure Mardi Gras, the ivy covering the brick walls is adorned with hundreds of beads from carnivals past. Pete was of course on hand to meet and greet and was kind enough to give me a private tour of the new kitchen. I’m a chef; I geek out on stuff like that. The crowd was happy and full. Notables on hand from the local food scene were Bob and Buffy Donlon (the folks who rescued Wintzell’s Oyster House) and LuLu’s at Homeport owner Lucy Buffett.
For guests there were ample samples of Pete’s culinary genius being distributed like his amazing beignets, inventive burgers (I was blown away by the Eastern Shore – onion confit and herbed goat cheese) and of course his name sake panini. So many panini in fact I didn’t get to try them all. I did make sure to try the famous ones – the Pete’s “Muffaletta” Panino and the House Roasted Turkey (see video below for the 411 on that). Also available for noshing was Pete’s homemade potato chips. See what I mean about everything made from scratch? Oh, for the record Pete makes his own mozzarella cheese, too.
The new Panini Pete’s is a welcome addition to the Port City. This town has earned the right to have fast food that is also good food. The restaurant is located at 19 S. Conception Street and Pete plans on opening to the public Thursday; once open they’ll be serving breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday.