Restaurant Review: Restaurant Review: Bambino

New Eastside pizza joint from L’Oca d’Oro owners has something to say


photo by Jody Horton

I won’t wade into the debate as to whether Austin really needs another pizza joint at this juncture. We all have our favorites, many of which we have been frequenting for decades by now. The more interesting question for me is: What does Bambino, the new casual, all-day pizza restaurant from L’Oca d’Oro owners Adam Orman and Fiore Tedesco, add to the conversation?

On our first visit to Bambino, we stayed laser focused on the Neapolitan-style pizzas, opting to get one per person. I chose the daily special, the chicken parm pizza, topped with hunks of breaded, fried chicken breast and a variety of white cheeses, while my spouse chose the Uncle Frankie, topped with fennel sausage, sweet peppers, broccoli rabe, some chile, and parmesan cheese. These two pizzas were a study in contrasts, the chicken parm a flavorful heavyweight to the lighter touch of the Uncle Frankie. On a hot late-spring day, we definitely preferred Uncle Frankie’s vegetal lightness, the finely diced vegetables dancing lightly with the small pieces of sausage. While I really liked the chicken parm, I think it would be a perfect post-summer pie. The fermented crust, made with flour from Barton Springs Mill, wasn’t quite as tangy as that of, say, Bufalina’s, on our first visit, but definitely had more flavor when we tried the margherita pie on our next visit.

I greatly enjoyed my frozen blood orange Negroni, which was a pleasant surprise, as I’m not typically a Negroni enjoyer. But I do enjoy a frozen cocktail, especially when the temperatures are being rude; I suspect that the act of freezing the drink tamps down the bitterness of the Campari. My spouse gave the house margarita high marks as well, remarking on its booziness and traditional margarita flavor.


Chef Fiore Tedesco (photo by Jody Horton)

I ordered a slice of the peanut butter pie to take home in a gesture toward temperance, but I cracked that puppy open the minute I reached the kitchen. It was, simply put, phenomenal. The graham cracker crust, peanut butter mousse, and chocolate ganache referenced similar icebox pies of church picnics past in all the best ways.

When we returned, I insisted that we expand our scope to other parts of the menu. This time, we ordered mozzarella sticks, the Govalle Greens salad, and the margherita pizza. I chose the Amalfi Witch for my drink (the Amaro, vodka, and orange soda concoction was so refreshing and so delicious that it disappeared very quickly), and my spouse chose the frozen Margarita d’Oro (more on that in a minute).

The mozzarella sticks were thickly breaded and uniform in size and shape, which prompted some discussion as to whether they were made in house. A moot point, honestly, because they were quite tasty, the salty cheese pairing nicely with the sturdy breading. I asked for both dipping sauces available – the marinara and the cacio e pepe ranch. The former was smoky and flavorful; I didn’t care for the latter, as it lacked the flavorful zip of a ranch dressing as well as the umami of a cheesy dip.

There’s a lot to recommend about Bambino, including the owners’ dedication to fair wages and working conditions, sourcing from local farms and purveyors with similar values, and implementing sustainable practices and materials.

The Govalle Greens salad, comprising mostly bitter greens, was not a winner for me. The house-made dressing was not flavorful or acidic enough to cut through the tough frisee and radicchio. I cannot recommend this salad, nor can I recommend the frozen margarita, which sported an earthy funk from the turmeric that was off-putting. My spouse, who never sends things back when we dine out, asked for something more to his taste (the rocks margarita he’d enjoyed on our first visit).

The service at Bambino is relaxed and friendly; you place your order at the counter and receive a number from your table. From there, floor staff provide you with dishes and cutlery, deliver drinks and food, encourage you to try the house-made chili oil (try a drizzle of it on your pizza! It’s great!), and take orders for additional drinks, dessert, and to-go items. I’d encourage diners to bring their situational awareness with them to Bambino, as the space can get quite crowded when it’s busy, and I saw multiple near misses between floor staff carrying drinks and hot food and oblivious guests not watching where they were going.


photo by Chase Daniel / Architecture and Interiors by Chioco Design

Bambino’s interior was designed by Chioco Design and evokes 1980s design motifs, from the wood-paneled walls to the curved bar to the metal window coverings made to look like the rattan cane furniture Gen Xers grew up sticking their fingers into. The expansive patio is perfect for larger parties or those who want to watch The Big Game (any game) on the big-screen TV.

I feel like I should have a macro at this point in which one keystroke will plug in my usual caveat about the near-injurious noise levels. The exposed concrete beams in the ceiling provide no sound baffling, and the overall industrial setting is fertile ground for cacophonies. Best to sit on the large patio if you want to be heard or are sensitive to lots of noise. Folks with tree nut allergies should be aware that Bambino’s menu is rife with almonds and pistachios. While the cashiers inquire into any allergies before taking orders, diners should be aware that cross-contamination is always a possibility, so dine with caution. I am allergic to pistachios and avoided dishes containing them without issue, but we did opt to leave our tree nut-allergic teenager at home due to a previous cross-contamination issue when dining out at L’Oca d’Oro.

There’s a lot to recommend about Bambino, including the owners’ dedication to fair wages and working conditions, sourcing from local farms and purveyors with similar values, and implementing sustainable practices and materials. Do I think the menu could be a bit more accessible in terms of what we expect from a pizza joint (the ossetra caviar pizza special, priced at $72, is a little over the top)? Yes, but I’m not going to fault a chef for his creative expression.

In short, Bambino is the right pizza place at the right time for its particular location. It reflects the changing composition of Austin in the historically underserved Eastside, as well as an effort on behalf of Orman and Tedesco to manifest their culinary ethos and progressive values via a meal that was once considered peasant food. And, based on the crowds, from folks fresh from a climbing workout to celebratory groups and families, the neighborhood likes what it sees. 

Bambino

979 Springdale Ste. 153

bambinoaustin.com

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Bambino, L’Oca d’Oro, Adam Orman, Fiore Tedesco

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