111214 giannis1The Neopolitan Panini served on fresh house-baked bread at Gianni’s. Below, the spacious dining room.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


111214 giannis3Lunchtime at Gianni’s Pizzeria in Little Silver is busy. Between the hours of 11:30 and 2:30, the tables fill up with people from all walks of life. Mothers with small children stop in for a slice while truckers pull over to pick up an order of subs or a full pie.

Helping PieHole watch its waistline, Jeff Lopez, the always-smiling counterman and pizza maker, suggested the Neapolitan Panini ($8.95).

111214 giannis2The half-size meatball sub is more meatball than bread at Gianni’s. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

The bread for the panini is made fresh in-house every day. Softer than a focaccia and less chewy than pizza dough, it is crispy on the outside but light and airy inside. The grilled chicken, fresh melted mozzarella and grilled red peppers make this savory and sweet sandwich scrumptious.

I would have eaten every morsel if I wasn’t pining for a bite of my son’s half-size meatball sub ($5.25). He ordered it just the way I like it: extra-crisped bread and light on the cheese. Gianni’s meatballs are light, too: slightly spongy and redolent of garlic and herbs.

The sauce for the hot subs and pizza is a perfect mixture of tomato and spices, lacking the often overly sweet flavoring many kitchens produce. The real beauty of this sub, though, is the texture of the meatballs. You take a big bite and the meatball isn’t so dense that it pops out of the sandwich.

We shared our sandwiches while watching customers come and go. Half of a less-fattening sandwich is still better than eating the whole thing, maybe. Having a kid willing to split his meatball sub with you though, well, he’s my favorite today. Don’t tell the other kids.

Gianni’s Pizzeria, which opened in 1999, is at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Church Street in Little Silver. There are now three others in the family-owned chain, including one at Wikoff Place and Maple Avenue in Red Bank, behind Foodtown. But whichever you try, first be sure to visit the restaurant website, with the sound on your computer turned on, to get you in the mood.