Bastardo is the lovechild of Italian food brought to America by Italian immigrants. The menu is dotted with comforting classics like chicken parmigiana and meatballs, which despite their nostalgic homeliness are skilfully done, using quality ingredients and presented with a rustic elegance.
The restaurant space has an old-world romantic charm with rusty candelabra suspended from the ceiling, leather booth seating, white tablecloths and candles. If there ever was a restaurant to reenact the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti kiss scene, Bastardo is it.
Begin with a negroni; a fragrant and bitter cocktail composed of campari, gin and vermouth (gotta respect a drink that doesn't waste time with mixers). Your waiter will have kindly placed a basket of heavenly-smelling bread on the table: resist the urge to eat it all now, you'll need it later.
Next order some antipasti. Just a little something as this is a marathon, not a sprint (the finish line is the dessert trolley). Octopus pizzaiola is tender, chargrilled to perfection and topped with 'red sauce' and provolone; you'll feel like you're at an outdoor seafood restaurant on the Amalfi Coast (or Coney Island). The beef crudo is an elegant way to kick off your evening of eating: tender beef on a cloud of mascarpone and scattered with sweetly crunchy Jerusalem artichoke chips.
Next up is pasta. Bastardo makes its own pasta each day and pairs it with a range of sauces. There's fettuccine with with crème fraîche and scampi, and the retro classic rigatoni vodka with tomato sauce spiked with mascarpone, chilli and vodka. You're going to have a hard time making up your mind but remember: you can come back. Take the final sip of your negroni and place your order.
And now for the meat, or if you're vegetarian, it's time to get stuck into the truffled mashed potatoes and souffle-like fennel sformato. The steak comes with a Flintstones-esque bone filled with marrow and a side salad of bitter and crunchy radicchio (happily, no mesclun). It's time to grab some of that Bastardo bread and use it to sop up the marrowy goodness.
You'll need an eating pause now, so lean back in your comfortable leather-backed seat, top up your glass of red and take a moment to appreciate how good life is. When you feel ready, nod to the waiter: it's time for the dessert trolley.
Featuring classics like tiramisu and budino (a caramel custard pudding) and bottles of delicious digestifs, the dessert trolley offerings are perfectly 'just a little sweet something' sized. Having started your evening with a negroni it's only fitting to end with a sip of sweetly bitter Amaro Montengro — Tony Soprano would approve.