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Paulie's knows panini, even veggie versions.

Image: Megha Tejpal

Whether you know Paulie's for its casual Italian fare, famous shortbread cookies or its low-key wine bar next door, the fact remains that there is much to love about the Montrose gem at the corner of Westheimer and Driscoll. As for me, any place with a dish named after Seinfeld's "Big Salad" wins my status as a regular.

Open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday, Paulie's menu of salads and sandwiches, pizzas and pastas includes many vegetarian options. All of the salads are meat-free with the option to add a protein like roasted salmon or chicken salad. Pastas are made in-house and loaded with flavor. The Canestri and Broccoli is deeply savory, with fresh garlic, olive oil, broccoli and imported Parmesan. There's fusilli, too (though not Jerry Seinfeld-shaped), served with pesto, Kalamata olives and pine nuts.

A variety of meatless sandwiches and panini are made hearty with colorful seasonal vegetables. They're accompanied by Italian potato salad or Mediterranean pasta salad. While fancy sandwiches like the grilled portobello with goat cheese and the Pizzitola panini are excellent, there's also a pimento cheese sandwich, so simple and yet, it's not found on many restaurant menus.

Available daily from noon to 4 p.m., happy hour specials allow diners to enjoy discounted options. The restaurant also offers nightly dinner features in addition to the regular menu. Currently the meatless feature of the week is the eggplant parmigiana served on Wednesday evenings.

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