Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Il Bambino

If vegetarianism had 10 Commandments, this would probably be one of them: thou shalt not dine at a restaurant with a pig painted on the window. Or a giant pork cuts diagram on the wall. Or an impressive range of porcine products on the menu.

Good thing no such rules exist, because Il Bambino, in its sneaky way, is vegetarian heaven.

Dr. Science and I would know: we eat there every few weeks, more often in nice weather when the delightful back garden is open. We're at the point where our favorite waiter doesn't bother to tell us the specials unless they're meat-free.

Il Bambino is known for its panini, but I'm gonna let you in on something: I kind of hate panini. As a fan of grilled cheese, I like the idea of it, but it never tastes as magically delicious as it should. The bread-to-filling ratio is simply too high. When I do opt for panini, it's here – the eggplant, mushroom, goat cheese and spicy mayo one is nice – but mostly I stick to the crostini. They come two to an order, and vegetarian options abound: there are about a dozen to choose from, ranging in tastiness from pretty good to phenonemenal.

Normally Dr. Science and I split two crostini, but when our pal the Chairman joined us on a recent visit, we went berserk and ordered three. (Hat tip to the Chairman for taking all the photos.) We had the manchego and membrillo, the white bean, pesto and parmesan, and the spicy avocado with goat cheese, a candidate for Best Tiny Sandwich Ever. It's topped with chili oil so awesome that Il Bambino sells it by the bottle.

Stringbeans (with cheesedrift)

To supplement the Food on Bread, we shared a couple of salads. The baby stringbeans came tossed with croutons and an umami-licious truffle vinaigrette, and topped with what Dr. Science calls a cheesedrift of shaved parmesan.

Roasted carrots

We also got the roasted carrots with sage, caramelized onions, Caesar vinaigrette and a healthy (or perhaps unhealthy) amount of feta. (Once again: apologies to my vegan friends. Or anyone concerned about the state of his or her arteries.)

Dessert at Il Bambino is no great shakes, with the notable exception of the vanilla bean panna cotta, served with a strawberry sauce and crunchy chocolate cornflake clusters. The three of us polished it off quicker than you can say PAH-nuh COAT-uh in a ridiculous fake Italian accent.

The service at Il Bambino is on par with the food. The waiters all wear cool hats – from jaunty newsboy caps to (appropriately) porkpies – and they're cute and friendly (without any of that "I'm Ryan, and I'll be taking care of you tonight" crap that drives me nuts).

Our latest dinner for three with a glass of wine, a beer and an iced tea came to $76 with tax and tip. Not bad for a lovely al fresco meal in which no pigs were harmed.

Il Bambino
34-08 31st Ave.

Veg friendliness

Food quality


1 comment:

  1. 100% agreed with you on pannini, though I think my beef with them (if you'll pardon the expression!) comes from the fact that I'm more likely to scrape the roof of my mouth on the super-sharp crackling edges of crisp-grilled pannino bread.

    I AM A WUSS.

    Crostini, though -- that I can get behind.