There are very few reasons for me to ever venture into Queens. If I’m feeling super adventurous, it’s usually a trip to the Golden Mall or for a game at Shea Stadium (I refuse to call it Citi Field). On my beautiful sister’s 21st birthday, she had just a few short hours in New York between flying from Los Angeles to Dublin. My entire family took off of work and school to spend the afternoon celebrating her legality. Since she was flying out of JFK, my Dad commissioned me with the task of finding a low-key spot in Astoria, Queens. Knowing absolutely nothing about the area, I turned to SeriousEats/FourSquare for a bit of guidance. Il Bambino, a low-key Spanish joint seemed like the ideal spot.
We drove through Queens, driving past the small yellow awning more times then my Dad would like to admit. Finally, we snagged a parking spot right in front (so not Manhattan style). We made our way inside, where a diverse group of patrons snacked on crostini’s and sipped ridiculous hot chocolates and Guava Mimosas.
The decor inside is personal, with funky mirrors covering the walls and collages of vintage pictures.
It feels comfortable and far from stuffy, with super cool waiters causally patrolling the back area. The waiter doubles as a bartender and busboy, proving the small time nature of this really delicious spot.
Leigh ordered her first legal drink (#LegalLeigh), a Guava Mimosa, toasting to the start of the next chapter of her life. Goodbye fake IDs.
To start, my family opted to create our own PuPu Platter, selecting six unique crostini’s from their ridiculously long list of unique combinations. They seemingly have every combination of spreads, meats, cheeses and veggies.
Surprisingly, the Truffle Egg Salad with Speck Crostini was our absolutely favorite one. The pricy Tuna crostini was our least favorite, lacking any pizazz like the others. They use a unique cracker type bread which is extremely sturdy. It’s a little bit drier, but all of the spreads and cheeses keep the integrity of the crostini. It’s fun to split them into four pieces and have little bits of each one.
We also ordered a few of the tapas, including the Arugula “Mimosa” salad. While we couldn’t understand how this was possibly considered a Mimosa, the pile of arugula, bacon and egg was still pretty delicious.
Smokey, sweet and slightly bitter from the arugula, this is a delicious salad. It has everything, without going totally overboard. I really enjoyed this.
My sister, Amanda, doesn’t eat bacon, so her and my Dad split two other tapas, which I didn’t have the opportunity to actually try, but they looked pretty phenomenal.
I also made the dreadful mistake of not photographing the insane Mushroom Panini. This was probably our best dish of the day, filled with Roasted Mushrooms, caramelized onions, dirty chips, truffle spread, fontina. It’s sweet, savory and crunchy. I would easily caloric-ly splurge on this panini regularly if I liked closer to Il Bambino. This, my friend, was the real deal and why people rant and rave about Il Bambino.
This place is a really great chill spot. I don’t know if I would completely venture out of my way for a fabulous panini, but they do have an insane backyard area. If you somehow find yourself on the way to JFK or just randomly wandering around Astoria, look for a yellow awning. Order a panini, and some crostini, and a Mimosa salad, and you will not regret it.
Il Bambino – 34-08 31st Avenue – Astoria, Queens
Location: Astoria, Queens
Type: Spanish, Sandwiches
Perfect For: Take Out, Quick Bite, Cheap Eats, Outdoor Seating, Authentic Dining, Borough Exploration
Favorite Dishes: Roasted Mushroom Panini, Arugula “Mimosa”, Marinated Sardines