An expensive variation of the toastie sandwich. Credited with starting the cafe culture boom in 1990's New Zealand.

The classic ham, brie and tomato Panini. Perfect for the unoriginal

The humble Panini started life in New Zealand as an import food that was smuggled past MAF's bio-security screen and grew to noxious proportions.

A Panini consists of a rugby ball shaped piece of bread, stuffed with a random assortment of fillings, and then thoroughly cooked on a sandwich grill.

Impact on New Zealand society

Prior to 1990, the options for dining out in New Zealand consisted of the local dairy, takeaway shop, Chinese takeout, and Cobb & Co.

A cafe culture started to emerge thanks to a small bohemian Auckland outfit called DKD. It served highly concentrated shots of coffee known as "espresso" - the gateway drug to the methamphetamine. Naturally, kiwis embraced espresso and it's cheap and effective way to get high.

The genesis of coffee culture - Cafe DKD

However, for cafe culture to gain acceptance in wider society, coffee dens needed to expand and capture the popular family market. Food was the true driver behind the rise of the cafe. New Zealand needed a fresh, alternative food that wasn't part of the usual staple of lamb roast, fish & chips and white bread. The newly introduced Panani soon became the logical star. 90's Cafes across the nation soon featured this new and strange international food.

However, once cafe culture became commoditized in the early 2000's, the Panini fell out of fashion. Tweaking, wired cafe customers demanded something new. Soon, the newly arrived Eggs Benedict replaced the Panini as the core food of choice, forever sealing Panini's fate.

Nowadays, Paninis are rarely seen on New Zealand cafe menu boards, although for the discerning tourist, you might find a taste of the past in one of the small town cafes that litter New Zealand highways.