If you have been, then you already know what makes Il Bambino great. Think paninoteca wuzzled with a tapas bar that also offers a fantastic selection of affordable wines. The outdoor space is cozy (enjoy it while the weather permits), and long hours allow for everything from a hearty brunch with lots of friends to a cheese plate with preserves and wine with someone special in the evening (open until at least 10 p.m.; midnight on weekends).
The crostini come two to a plate, which makes them ideal for choosing a few different ones for sharing. The panini are absolutely enormous, and perfect for splitting, as well.
Brunch is served three days a week: Friday, Saturday, & Sunday from 10:30am – 3:30pm. Brunch features a special menu of hilarious titles that actually make you want to read the full menu, such as Sir Oink-a-lot, The Fun Guy, or the Notorious P.I.G. with scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, artisan cheddar, and truffle spread.
One of the newest panini additions features finocchiona, olive spread, fresh tomato, chili oil, and provolone. Other exciting ingredients appearing throughout the menu include cappa ham, piquillo peppers, chickpea butter, fried eggplant, rosemary ricotta, and apricot butter.
The bread is made exclusively for Il Bambino at Gian Piero Bakery, and cannot be purchased outside of the store. Its outer crunch gives way to a wonderfully chewy and moist inside. A greater selection of gourmet panini would be difficult to find.
Besides the panini, you can create your own antipasti selection, or choose from tapas and salads. Something I order every single time I take someone for their first visit is this potato salad, with sliced fingerlings tossed in truffle mayo, with fried shallots, a drizzle of basil pesto, and a snowfall of pecorino.
Soups here are some of the very best around, ranging from roasted pumpkin with sweet spices and fresh thyme to split pea prosciutto, potato with roasted mushrooms and garlic, potato-cauliflower with toasted almond, and, for when it’s really cold, a sweet sausage minestrone with ditalini pasta.
Do not leave without the panna cotta. A vanilla bean custard sits in a pool of homemade strawberry sauce, with chilled cornflake clusters dipped in chocolate. Even if you think you are full, trust me, these are worth it. Even the peanut butter rice crispie treats coated in chocolate are fantastic.
The staff is one of the best in the neighborhood. Each table has a small glossary on it, making unfamiliar cheese and charcuterie accessible while avoiding the embarrassment of asking, “what’s this?” Il Bambino delivers. I also call ahead on my way into work to place an order, swing by and grab it, and then watch my Manhattan friends drool at the gourmet goods as they all enviously ask where I got it. “Astoria,” I smile.
34-08 31st Avenue, Astoria
Mon-Thu 10:30 am – 10:30 pm
Fri 10:30 am – 12 am
Sat 10 am – 12 am
Sun 10 am – 10 pm
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