03/06/13 9:55am
Sweet, smoky and thoroughly Italian.

Sweet, smoky, cheesy, and thoroughly Italian.

The last time I had a panini was at some awful Midtown eatery in an office building where I once worked. For a while the Italian sandwiches became so trendy and I wrote them off completely. Then about two years ago I started hearing raves about the panini at Il Bambino in Astoria. Last night I finally made it there.

When I walked in and saw one wall devoted to a huge carcass map of a pig,with cuts and various salumi labeled in Italian I knew Il Bambino was my kind of place. There are 21 types of pressed sandwiches on offer here, including Italian meatloaf with onion jam, tomato pesto, spicy mayo, and provolone. I chose the Berkshire ham ($11) with garlic spinach, peach mustard, and taleggio. It’s tempting to compare this sandwich to a Cubano, but it’s really a thing unto itself. And it’s a good thing at that. The salty smoky ham was in perfect balance with the slightly funky cheese, and sweet fruity mustard. Pressed to a nice crunch too. The garlicky spinach added a nice punch too and I got to eat some greens.

As I was sipping an after dinner espresso I noticed that the menu contains 16 types of over the top brunch Panini, including The Italian Nut Job ($11), which features  a wacky combo of prosciutto, membrillo, ameretti cookies, gorgonzola dolce. I have a feeling I’ll be spending a lot of time at this place.

Il Bambino, 34-08 31st Ave., Astoria, 718-626-0087