Winner: The Dream State
Restaurant: Reginelli's Pizzeria, New Orleans
Units: Soon to be 10
Food cost: $2.39
Creator: Darryl Reginelli, owner
Ingredients: Herbed goat cheese spread layered with Roma tomatoes, diced pancetta, roasted cubed eggplant, roasted walnuts and mixed greens, all dressed with a balsamic-citrus vinaigrette, on housemade focaccia bread.
What makes it special: Inspired by a walk through the Mercato Centrale in Florence, Italy, Reginelli created a more vegetable-forward sandwich that lets good ingredients shine. His father loved eggplant, so Reginelli said he grew up eating it lots of different ways, and he wanted to do a salad-style sandwich that wasn’t the same-old-boring Caesar sandwich.
For The Dream State, the house-baked focaccia is brushed with garlic oil and sprinkled with a signature herb mix (featuring oregano and thyme). The mix is also incorporated into the ricotta/goat cheese spread. The eggplant is roasted until soft, but the roasted walnuts give texture, along with the salt of the pancetta — though vegetarians often order it without the meat.