Sunday, April 13, 2008

Il Bambino Cafe - Panini Squisiti

Il Bambino Cafe - 34-08 31st Avenue, Astoria, NY 11106
N/W Train to Broadway or 30th Avenue

Il Bambino has been the talk of the town since it opened its doors less than two years ago. This place is known for amazing paninis made out of simple, quality ingredients. Friends from the neighborhood have been talking it up so much that I finally went over there after my Sunday afternoon bellydancing ritual. I'm not exaggerating when I say that my life will never be the same--this is some good, not-to-be-missed stuff!

As I already hinted, Il Bambino is simple and on the small side yet its decor is tasteful and charming. I especially love the wall of rustic mirrors juxtaposed with the wall of wooden cutting boards and paddles. The front of the house shows an oversized wall painting of a pink, fleshy pig, arrows pointing to the parts of the body that produce prosciutto, speck, cappa, sopressata and your other favorite cured meats.

The vibe here is really fun and casual. Young patrons occupy small wooden tables, they chat freely and listen to the upbeat music coming from the sound system. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the music selections--a jazz rendition of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" and Britney Spears' "Toxic." I know, I know, cheesy as hell but I promise that the jazz versions were awesome.

The main reason for our visit was of course to sample the famous paninis. We took our panini tasting very seriously, ordering three different kinds and sharing them with each other --a fun way to experience a variety of flavors and I recommend it. Here's what we tried:

Root Vegetable Soup: This was a group starter and what a beautiful introduction to our meal it was! The soup was topped with a warm pesto flatbread, which we split into thirds and dipped into the soup. I couldn't decide which was better--to eat it on its own or to submerge it into the creamy soup. I'd get this again in a heartbeat and because the portion was generous, we hung on to it for dipping sauce for our paninis.

Fried Eggplant:
Served with fresh tomatoes and basil pesto, this was our only veggie panini and it happened to be my favorite. Despite being fried, the eggplant was very light and enhanced nicely by the pesto. My mom pointed out that it was not overly garlicky like some pestos can be and I think that's what made it yummy. Bravo for the pesto!

Prosciutto: This meaty panini also included tangy Gorgonzola cheese and sweet fig spread. The figs gave it a "desserty" taste, providing a nice contrast to the other more salty paninis. Although my dining companions loved this dish, I'm not a huge fan of cooked prosciutto. I would've preferred if the prosciutto was added at the last minute in its original form.

Sunday Special - Soppressata: Served with fontina cheese and sliced green apples, this sounded too good to pass up. The apples were paper thin, a perfect complement to the salty soppressata and the stringy fontina. I'd say that this pannini was the gentlest of the bunch and I could've finished the whole thing myself.

In addition to paninis, Il Bambino also boasts a sampling of tapas.

Service and Cost:
Absolutely no complains about the service--our waitress was laid back, pleasant and our plates appeared and disappeared in good time. Another positive is that we didn't have to wait long for the check. The staff at the front counter was friendly and welcoming too, answering our questions about their impressive, colossal cupcakes.

Cost-wise, Il Bambino is wallet friendly--$4 for soup and crostini, $6-$10 for antipasti, $7-$8 for salads and tapas, and $7.50-$8.50 for paninis. Il Bambino is a BYOB establishment, which fits its personality--so come by for lunch or dinner and bring a bottle of white with ya.

3 Mmmms


  1. This place was soooo delish! I can't believe I JUST tried it for the first time!!

  2. I love Il Bambino, but I think its bullshit they charge you $5 for bringing in wine. Wine glasses are not that expensive, and its not like they have a wine list. Boo to that, but yay for the best soup n' sammich in town.

  3. $5 corking fee! Yuckie :(

  4. This is seriously one of the best places to eat in astoria. I've chatted with the owner on a couple of occasions while there, great guy. Maybe we can get him to open on ditmars in the old go wasabi spot! i'm going to suggest it.

  5. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!



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