Astoria's Il Bambino
Had lunch there about 3 weeks ago.
I haven't posted about it. Why? I think there was some subconscious inkling that people really aren't all that interested in panini here... unless it's some elderly Italian dude making it.
I think it was probably unfair on my part to even think that way.
This place is earnest. They're trying hard. It's a good place.
The very pretty smothered tomato with tuna "confit". Tomato was too firm and not flavorful enough (which is usually the case with very firm tomatoes).
Crostini with truflled egg salad and shaved speck was fine. I've seen others comment about it; maybe I'm just getting over truffle oil, which has recently been debunked as not real truffles.
We had a couple of very nice panini. Great bread, great fillings. The fried eggplant was pretty spectacular, in particular.
Didn't try it but should have:
All of the sweets up front looked delicious. Especially if you prefer brownies and cookies to more exotic fare.
We sat in their dining room in the back, which is a little drab but I imagine it's nicer at night, with the lights dimmed. They played Big Star on their sound system all through lunch, which might have been a first in the borough?
We will go back for lunch or dinner soon.
"Panini" is yuppie for "ripoff sandwich." I'm a restaurant person and just don't get what all the fuss is about regarding Il Bambino. What Astoria does not need is an overhyped, faux-Euro deli like this that delivers horrendous value for your money.
In a nutshell, pretentiousness and high prices are why I moved out of Manhattan and into Astoria. To me, gentrification never bodes well, and I'd so much rather have a sweet, creamy $1 café con leche than a bitter $4.35 "venti" from Starbucks.
If I longed to spend the better part of a Jackson on a skimpy, pretentious deli lunch, I could've stayed in Chelsea and nursed "panini" and lattes in cafes alongside MacBook-tapping, trust fund-supported wannabe screenwriters.
But mea culpa! I was curious about Il Bambino's buzz and took out two "panini." When I got home and unwrapped them I was shocked and appalled at how little I got for nearly $20. Each "panini," maybe an inch thick total, had ONE measly paper-thin slice of meat and so little cheese it had melted into the bread and totally disappeared. Their relishes were so scanty as to be undetectable. It was a joke, really, and the two "panini" were worth no more than $6 total, and I'm trying to understand the midset of someone who buys into the "panini" b.s.
I do understand that the experience of eating in Il Bambino is probably a little more total. But for takeout, it is mortifyingly overpriced.
So, viva non-yuppie Astoria! If you're really jonesing for a pressed sandwich a la "panini," get the real thing--a Cuban sandwich from El Sitio at 35-55 31st St. It's $4.70. And for $6-$7 at La Espiguita, you get a Mexican torta sandwich bursting with interesting ingredients. The torta is as big as your head and fills two famished Astorians. It's at 32-44 31st St. just south of Broadway.
Sorry, I must take up for Il Bambino here. Panini are not meant to be those 6'' thick sandwiches that most American's eat. The quality of ingredients at Il Bambino is excellent and prices are very fair as a result. The most expensive panini is 8.50, with most being around 7 or 7.50. So the price differential for the place you are comparing it to is pretty scant. Not to mention, it is not always appealing to eat a 4 pound sandwich. Il Bambino's soups are homemade and delicious (and $4 for a generous portion that comes with pieces of toast with olive oil and garlic on it). Their salads are nicely sized and appropriately priced. Sorry, but I had to take up for this place as I think they are doing a great job. Yes, there is a ton of great ethnic food in Astoria as well. But you're comparing apples and oranges. And p.s. "panini" is Italian for "pressed sandwich", but keep up the angst!
so ive been there a couple of times and i also dont get the hype about paninis.
i mean they were ok but in , whats the big deal? its just too too much going on- the bread is rediculously crispy sometimes, to the point it hurts the top of your mouth.
I always get psyched about Il Bambino's desserts but no matter how nice they look, the taste doesnt measure up. Its good but not as great as u expect the to be, except the brownies bc those are awesome!
I have to agree with jdream. I think Il Bambino makes some wonderful sandwiches, crostinis and salads. Their ingredients are fresh, I like the italian sausage panini or the prosciutto/mozarella one. They also have really good coffee and desserts (the brownies are spectacular, except I think their cupcakes come from Crumbs). As for pretentiousness? Il Bambino is a no-frills, very laid back place.