08/01/13 11:12am
Volunteers ladling out bubur ayam, a lovely chicken and rice porridge.

Volunteers ladling out bubur ayam, a lovely chicken and rice porridge.

Like many of my food-obsessed friends in Queens I’m fascinated by iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fast observed during this Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In Jackson Heights it makes its presence known in the form of so-called iftar boxes sold on tables outside the Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants. While they look tasty there’s little variety among them. Most include a pakora, some rice, dates, and a sweet or two.  So I’m grateful Anne Noyes Saini wrote about our borough’s other more diverse iftar offerings, including a gratis buffet held every weekend at Astoria’s Masjid Al Hikmah. (more…)

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

01/18/13 10:05am

Tufino’s fried calzone is magnificent.

With 18 pies on offer there’s something for every type of pizza lover at Astoria’s  month-old  Tufino Pizzeria Napoletana. The thing that impressed me the most at a recent dinner at Stephen Menna’s new spot though wasn’t the pizza, good as it was. It was the calzone fritto ($12), a gigantic creation that had been deep fried before getting a blast in Tufino’s wood-burning Stefano Ferrara oven.


It’s like the love-child of lasagna and zeppole.

The blistered golden brown calzone is filled with rich fresh ricotta, fior de latte mozzarella, and prosciutto cotto all livened up with a good dose of black pepper. It eats like the illegimate love child of zeppole and lasagna, proving that everything is better fried.It’s just one of several dolcetti fritti, or fried treats on the menu here. Word on the street is that Tufino plans to add more. I can hardly wait.

Tufino Pizzeria, 36-08 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria, 718-278-4800