Let us now praise the Earl of Sandwich. For without his inventiveness, we would wake up each morning doomed to a lunch hour that requires forks and knives, tables and chairs, and (hold on to your hats) relaxation. Who has time for that? But come to think of it, when was the last time you had a sandwich on the run that was as delectable and memorable as your last high-powered sit-down lunch? For all we know, our beloved earl may be rolling in his grave knowing that every joint bearing his name devotes a solid chunk of its menu to the cylinder-esque wrap.
Enter Pronto. One visit to this Italian cafˇ, and it’s clear that the place is on a mission to re-establish the integrity of the sandwich form. Consider the Roman ($6), which is basically a Saturday-night-caliber meal of spicy chicken, sautˇed red onions, spinach, and provolone compressed on olive bread. But some, as they say, like it hot, and Pronto offers plenty of hot lunches, too. There are clever arrangements of ingredients available as warm panini, such as the Parisian ($6.50), roasted turkey layered with artichokes, parmesan, tomatoes, and caramelized onions on focaccia bread. And of course there’s also a good old-fashioned selection of soups. Italian country vegetable ($4) is available daily, along with whatever else the chef whips up on a whim. The day I visited, vegetable curry ($3.50) was the soup du jour, but it easily qualified as a stew — or even a hot salad.
Pronto has a polished-yet-homey cafeteria look, which we’ll call Tuscany-chic. The counters and shelves are loaded with Italian goodies — sauces, pastas, and packages of breadsticks and cookies — so you can stock your cupboards. For a more immediate treat, pick up a fresh-baked biscotto ($1), a candy-speckled fudge brownie ($1.25), or a frosted macaroon ($1).
Pronto, located in the courtyard at Charles Square, 1 Bennett Street, in Cambridge, serves food Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (617) 234-8080.