Panini Sandwich (credit: Thinkstock)

For those looking for a quick lunch of casual Italian fare, dining on a panini cannot be beat. With affordable price tags, fresh ingredients and plenty of healthy options, panini make for the perfect meal on-the-go. The East Bay has a number of great local restaurants specializing in this toasty Mediterranean pleasure. Here are five of the best panini spots around.

Cafe Panini
2116 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 849-0405
www.cafe-panini.net

Tucked behind the Jupiter brewhouse, Berekely’s Café Panini is open for extended lunch hours Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.  With almost every item on the menu coming in at under $10, the café offers the rare find of a delicious, fresh and affordable Bay Area lunch. Diners can order everything from a classic hot Roma with tomato, basil and mozzarella to the delightfully fresh vegetarian combination of avocado, feta, pea sprouts and vinaigrette. Meat lovers will want to sample the hot Cuban or smoked turkey panini. Round out the meal with a freshly made cup of soup or crisp salad.

De La Torre’s Trattoria
Val Vista Shopping Center
6025 W. Las Positas Blvd.
Pleasanton, CA 94588
(925) 484-3878
www.delatorres.net

A true neighborhood trattoria, Pleasanton’s De La Torre’s serves up classic Italian fare at affordable prices. This casual joint offers all manner traditional favorites including fresh made minestrone with borlotti beans and pastini, baked ziti with Sicilian sausage and roasted  peppers and parmesan crusted chicken Milanese. The lunch menu offers a number of tantalizing paninis ranging from polpette with homemade meatballs and mozzarella to the Paisano with prosciutto, wine-cured salami and burrata. The full menu is also available for takeout and catering.

PIQ Bakery
91 Shattuck Square
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 540-7700
www.piqbakery.com

Berkeley’s PIQ Bakery dishes up casual Italian fare in sleek downtown location. With both indoor and outdoor seating, PIQ is a combination café and bakery. The menu includes a tantalizing variety of panini that includes the Norcino with fennel sausage, tomatoes and peppers and the Galantina with turkey, provolone, tomatoes and arugula. Vegetarian and vegan panini include the Rosso with tomatoes, freshly made mozzarella and arugula as well as the Vegan-O with roasted vegetables and olives.

Uptown Cafe And Crepes
410 21st St.
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 251-9090
www.uptowncafeandcrepes.com

Open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, Oakland’s Uptown Café and Crepes dishes up simple healthy food. The menu includes a variety of savory paninis, housemade soups and salads, and crepes both sweet and savory. The grilled paninis not only include a side of house potatoes or mixed greens, but they are all very reasonably priced at under $8. Vegetarians can choose from the portobella mushroom panini with roasted peppers, sprouts, and mozzarella or the eggplant with marinara and mozzarella. Meat lovers will enjoy the ham, swiss and Dijon, tuna melt, or chicken pesto replete with sun dried tomatoes and provolone.

The Press
1987 Santa Rita Road., Suite H
Pleasanton, CA 94566
(925) 846-9900
www.thepressartisancafe.com

Pleasanton’s brand-new The Press Artisan Café serves spectacular hand-crafted eats six days a week, Monday through Saturday. Only the finest quality ingredients are used, with many items locally sourced. All paninis and cold sandwiches are served on Acme bread. Panini options include the Saucisson Salami Caprese with brie and pesto, as well as the triple grilled cheese with jalapeno, cheddar, brie and bacon. For those looking for an early morning bite, check out one of the breakfast toastinis.

Joanna Metheny is a freelance writer covering all things South Bay. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.