Tramezzini - Italian Snack Sandwiches

First made at the Caffè Mulassano in Turin in 1925, tramezzini were and still are an Italianized version of British tea sandwiches. Made on white Pullman bread called pan carré, or square bread, in a very Turin combination of Italian and French, they were named by Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio. Because the word sandwich was difficult to pronounce in Italian, d’Annunzio invented the word tramezzino (the singular) which has overtones of both “between” (tra in Italian) and “half” (mezzo). In 1925, it was traditional in Italy (as it still is today) to stop for an after-work snack and a glass of wine or an aperitif on the way home, while fashionable ladies might entertain friends at home after shopping or a game of cards. Tramezzini fit right in. Today, when few people in large Italian cities return home for the main meal of the day in the early afternoon, tramezzini are often eaten as a light lunch.

This isn’t really a recipe, but some instructions and suggestions for preparing tramezzini.

  1. Stack 1/4-inch slices of Pain de Mie, and use a sharp serrated knife to trim away the crusts.
  2. Arrange the slices of bread sequentially, two at a time, facing each other.
  3. Spread one side of each slice of bread with a very thin layer of softened butter or mayonnaise.
  4. Evenly spread or stack the filling to the edge of half the slices of bread, being careful not to make the filling thicker in the center. Each filling should be no thicker than one slice of the bread. See below for suggested fillings.
  5. Top with the second slices of bread. Cut the tramezzini diagonally and stack the triangular halves on a platter or a footed cake stand as they’re displayed in Italy.
  6. For advance preparation, cover with plastic wrap, a damp kitchen towel, and more plastic wrap to keep the tramezzini from drying out.


Mix a 5-ounce can of tuna packed in olive oil, drained, with a tablespoon each of chopped parsley and chopped capers; spread on 2 slices of bread and grind a little black pepper on the tuna. Top with paper-thin slices of tomato, tender leaves of lettuce or a few leaves of arugula, and 2 more slices of bread. Keep the tomato upward in the sandwich to prevent it from seeping into the bread.

Thinly sliced prosciutto or boiled ham topped with thin slices of mozzarella or Swiss Gruyère. Add tomato if using mozzarella or thinly sliced non-sweet pickles if using Gruyère.

Thinly sliced prosciutto topped with chopped artichoke hearts preserved in oil.

Thinly sliced mozzarella and tomato, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and some torn leaves of fresh basil.

Thinly sliced mozzarella and tomato, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and some torn leaves of fresh basil.

Thinly sliced mortadella, thinly sliced mozzarella, roasted peppers that have been marinated in olive oil, salt, and a sliced clove of garlic for a couple of hours before using, and some torn leaves of fresh basil.