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This Incoming Food Cart Specializes in Hard-to-Find Tuscan Sandwiches

Sorbu Paninoteca serves eggplant-and-mozzarella sandwiches stacked with torta di ceci, or a chickpea flatbread

A woman with red-painted fingernails holds a sandwich with pieces of zucchini and bell pepper at Sorbu Paninoteca
A vegetable sandwich from Sorbu Paninoteca
Sarah Marguier/Official
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

When chef Chris Ericsen would visit his wife’s family in Italy, he knew he had to order one thing: cinque e cinque, a sandwich with eggplant, mozzarella, and a soft, chickpea flour flatbread called torta di ceci. “It’s wicked delicious,” Ericsen says. “When we go back to Tuscany, I eat way too much of it.”

Ericsen’s wife, Aurelia Galimberti, grew up in a town called Sorbugnano, a small village in the hills near Cecina. After leaving Tuscany, Galimberti lived with Ericsen in Costa Rica, where he co-owned a taqueria. When the couple moved back to Ericsen’s hometown of Portland in 2019, he started a job at Beast, from which he was furloughed during the restaurant shutdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, Galimberti is still waiting on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to finalize her green card, which means she can’t work at the moment. The couple was trying to figure out a way to support their two kids when they figured out an option: Bring some of Galimberti’s hometown to Portland, via a food cart.

And so, Sorbu Paninoteca was born. The cart is a product of Galimberti and Ericsen’s histories, serving Tuscan sandwiches — including cinque e cinque — as well as porchetta, seasonal vegetable sandwiches, and salads made with produce hand-picked by Ericsen at Praxis Farm. The couple makes their own bread for the sandwiches, with a handful of sourdoughs and Galimberti’s family recipes that she “won’t let [him] mess with,” in Ericsen’s words. The cart will serve torta de ceci straight or in a cinque e cinque, with the optional addition of mozzarella; the sandwich is completely vegan otherwise. “We don’t want to be meat-heavy,” Ericsen says. “We’re not vegetarian, but we eat a lot of vegetables. We want to shine some light on the beautiful produce we have here.”

Still, Ericsen still intends to sling a super meaty porchetta sandwich, which comes with with house giardiniera sourced from Praxis. Over the past few months, Ericsen has been working for the Portland-area farm; additionally, Galimberti has been volunteering for their kids’ school’s co-op, La Colectiva de Comida, which sources produce from Praxis and distributes it among Rigler Elementary’s families and teachers. Mutual aid will also be a component of Sorbu Paninoteca: the couple is still figuring out how to make it work, but down the line they’d like to set aside one day a week for pay-what-you-can or donation-based meals. “We’re trying to help people out and let them know we’re here,” Ericsen says. “If I see my neighbor doesn’t have food on his plate, I’m going to put food on his plate. He would do the same.”

Sorbu will open at 5011 NE 42nd Avenue in late September.

Sorbu [Official]