Restaurant: Picasso’s, Erie, Pennsylvania
I can only survive so long on protein bars, bananas, Greek yogurt, and ice cream. Although if I could live forever on ice cream, I’d probably do that. But, alas…it is not possible.
And when hitting the road, it’s not easy for me to just grab fast food. I mean…I’m a gluten-free vegetarian. That more than limits the field of places I truly can eat. And eat safely for that matter. After visiting my home town, as brief as it was, and driving back toward Columbus, Ohio…my partners in crime and I figured we best find somewhere to grab some actual food for dinner. We were all basically living off the snacks and ice cream we consumed earlier in the day. I consulted my Find Me Gluten Free app for the cities we would be passing through, and the one with the most options was also the furthest one away.
After listing off what the app directed us toward, the three of us decided that sandwiches sounded really, really good. And the app was having us head toward Picasso’s. Picasso’s is Erie, Pennsylvania’s first and only truly gourmet sandwich shop. Their sandwiches range from one that has Twinkies on it with cheese and ham, to vegetarian offerings. The kicker, however, was that they offered gluten-free bread. YES!! We attempted to find the place on our own, but soon enlisted the help of the GPS on my phone. And Jenn and I spotted it just outside the ring road that circled the mall there in Erie. We directed Cathy up that way and eagerly got out of the car. Because, yes…we were hungry and ready to eat!
Upon stepping inside the place, I already liked the vibe. The lady behind the counter was very friendly and very nice. She greeted us immediately and we said we were traveling from out of town…and that I was a Celiac. She assured me that they change gloves and take special precautions to prevent cross-contamination. THEY KNEW WHAT CROSS CONTAMINATION WAS!! I felt better about this already. The difficult part now was deciding on what sandwiches to order. After all, these would see us from Erie all the way back to Columbus, Ohio.
After some menu perusal, we all came to our decisions.
Cathy went with Raphael, which consisted of cheese ravioli, baby spinach and mozzarella cheese on sourdough bread ($6.99). Jenn went with The Thinker, which basically has the customer choose three cheeses. I can’t remember exactly what she went with, but I believe it was provolone, mozzarella, and the cheese ravioli ($5.49). Yes…cheese ravioli is considered cheese there at Picasso’s. You gotta love that. And, honestly, where else have you ever seen ravioli on a sandwich? It was an interesting concept and one that intrigued both of them.
As for me…I went with the Gluten-Free Venus De Milo ($8.49 – $6.49 sandwich with a $2.00 up-charge for gluten-free). My sandwich consisted of hummus, onion, shredded carrots, baby spinach, muffalata, tomato, avocado and roasted red pepper mayo on Schär gluten-free bread. Instead of going into a panini press like Cathy and Jenn’s sandwiches, mine was toasted and cooked to perfection in an oven…definitely eliminating the possibility of cross-contamination. They changed gloves and made my sandwich first, before working on my friends. I appreciated everything they were doing to ensure I would not get sick from eating there.
We took a seat with our drinks to wait for our food. What is really awesome is that the tables are painted black and on each one is a little metal bucket that contained sidewalk chalk. See where this is headed? While waiting on food, customers can make some art on these tables, draw, write, play games…whatever. It’s a fun little concept and the three of us put our artistic (or lack thereof) skills to work. Cathy drew what we call a “anorexic Thor” which got us laughing for a good long while.
But soon, food was arriving. Jenn’s sandwich first. Then Cathy’s. As mine was being toasted in an oven, it was taking a little longer. I told Cathy and Jenn to go ahead and eat their sandwiches while they were still warm. Both of them unwrapped their food and began to nosh. And just after their initial bites, my sandwich arrived, wrapped and ready for me to eat.
I can’t speak for them, but both Cathy and Jenn were quite impressed with how well ravioli on a sandwich worked. Why we never thought of this before…is way beyond me! These sandwiches must have been good because all three of us have been lamenting not having a Picasso’s near us. Sadness.
As for my sandwich…well, to start…this was my first time having Schär’s sandwich bread. And it was awesome. Seriously. With gluten-free bread, you either get the ones that hold up or the ones that fall apart. This sandwich was loaded down with veggies as well as hummus and red pepper mayo. So…this had the potential to be very, very messy. But…it was a light golden color and held together, even with all the fillings and toppings and general awesomesauce stuffed in between. The muffalata was a bit scary…because I dislike olives. But…I went with it. I braved it. I figured it all had to come together somehow. And just like any work of art…it all did. The onions, the tomato, the carrots, the baby spinach, the avocado, the hummus, the olives, the red pepper mayo…it made for the perfect bite…every time. In fact, when I’d drip mayo out with some of the filling, I’d scoop it up and devour that too. That is how much I was enjoying this sandwich. It was savory, and sweet, and just A-MAZ-ING!! Seriously, I keep wanting to attempt to recreate it…along with what Jenn and Cathy had. I just know it wouldn’t live up to what we were served there at Picasso’s. Sandwich perfection. Truly. A masterpiece between two pieces of (gluten-free) bread.
I only wish there were more of these throughout the country…like in Louisville or Columbus. You know…where we live and all. We still crave another sandwich from there, which means they are doing something completely right. I loved the off-beat combinations that made up their sandwiches. And every sandwich was named after either an artist or a work of art. Like I said…the concept of this gourmet sandwich shop was fantastic. The fact that the food lived up to the concept was even better.
I encourage you, if you happen to be traveling through Erie, Pennsylvania, to stop in for a bite to eat at Picasso’s. The art of food, specifically sandwich crafting, is alive and well…and done to perfection. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Choose something you’d never dream of finding anywhere else. I promise, you’ll want to go back for more.