This week, I reached out for a Chicken Pesto with Fresh Mozzarella Ciabatta Sub, star of the new Ciabatta Collection at America's leading sandwich shop, Subway, with 26,000 restaurants and counting — down. Subway has been closing several hundred restaurants each year lately.
But that's not our concern. The only bottom line we care about is the product that comes across the counter. So with that ...
Here's the Chicken Pesto with Fresh Mozzarella Ciabatta Sub breakdown: rotisserie-style chicken, fresh mozzarella, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and a new basil pesto sauce on ciabatta bread.
Total calories: 580. Fat grams: 15. Sodium: 790 mg. Carbs: 61 g. Dietary fiber: 2 g. Protein: 38 g. Manufacturer's suggested retail price: $5.69. Your mileage may vary.
There are a few new things happening here. First, this sandwich comes on ciabatta bread, a flat, long crusty bread that was created as recently as 1982 in Italy. Ciabatta is Italian for "slipper," which sort of describes its shape. Ciabatta was created in response to French baguettes, which were dominating the sandwich market in Italy. That was unacceptable to Italians, so the response was ciabatta. It's a terrific bread for sandwiches.
Subway's take on ciabatta is slightly softer and milder than the original Italian model, or the ciabatta you'll find in bakeries or Central Market (best ciabatta I've had). True ciabatta has a crunchy crust, which leave a pile of crumbs on the table or your lap. To me, it's not great ciabatta unless you need a broom like the one the janitor used in your grade school to sweep up.
The chicken is "rotisserie-style." I don't know what that means. When I go to Costco, I get a real rotisserie chicken right off the spit, a monster bird for $4.99, the best value in supermarket poultry. And I'm not exactly sure what "fresh mozzarella" means at Subway, either.
You won't find a Subway sandwich artist squeezing mozzarella from scratch behind the counter. The basil pesto sauce has some pop, and may be the strongest flavor in the sandwich. As for the veggies, they're standard Subway fare. You can pick and choose anything on display, or as comedian Sebastian Maniscalco says, "run it through the garden."
The other two subs in the Ciabatta Collection are: the Italian (salami, spinach, mozzarella, banana peppers, and balsamic sub sauce), and the Garlic Steak & Provolone (provolone, green peppers, and creamy garlic aioli).
All three ciabatta subs run $5.69, and they're about 6 inches long. That's a tough one to swallow, because Subway has a deal now with three of its most popular foot-longs selling for $5. Twice the sandwich for less money makes the Ciabatta Collection a hard sell.
Ken Hoffman reviews a new fast food restaurant item every Wednesday. Have a suggestion or a drive-thru favorite? Let Ken know on Twitter.