Friday, May 6, 2011


3202 Northlake Parkway NE, Atlanta, GA 30345

The website says it's Italian food by way of the Bronx. If this sounds discouraging to you, you're on the right track. Bambinelli's serves every single old and (in this case) boring Italian-American dish imaginable: lasagna, fettucine alfredo with chicken or shrimp, calzones, chicken marsala, antipasta salad and baked ziti, and pizza, of course. All the things your middle school cafeteria ladies used to half-heartedly dish out onto your plastic lunch trays back before you had a choice about what and where you ate. The food at Bambinelli's is about that exciting, and near the same quality.

Now you're really discouraged, right?

And the thing is, I HATE to have to discourage you in this case. Bambinelli's is family run restaurant, an establishment that has been in the Northlake area for over 30 years. It's outlasted almost every other restaurant within five miles of Northlake Mall. The entrance and cash register areas are covered in framed pictures of the owner's family, covering weddings, births, high school graduations, etc. It's not cold and overly modern, and the waiters are nice, not aloof and overdressed like they are at some restaurants in Buckhead or downtown. It's homey. It makes you want to like it.

But I don't like it. And I have intentionally held off from reviewing it for at least a year because I kept giving it another chance, and another . . .

Since my grandmother likes and lives near this place, I've dined here at least 4 times during the past year. Once I had the linguine with white clam sauce. I've mentioned in a previous review how much I normally love this dish. Some Italian restaurants make it great (such as Veni Vedi Vici in midtown), and some do a poor job (such as previously reviewed Il Bacio, whose aforementioned dish is like clam soup). Bambinelli's dish gets about a 3 on my scale of 1-10. The clams don't seem fresh, the pasta is overcooked, and there's way too much garlic.

Last night we had the pizza. If you're going to eat here, that's what you should order. I've had plain pepperoni, which was fine, and last night we had the Bada Bing Pizza. The toppings are ham, salami, pepperoni, smoked provolone and mozzarella. The medium was $17.95. It was OK. Just OK. No one flavor stood out, no one ingredient seemed particularly fresh. Biting into a hot slice of pizza should leave you with that satisfied feeling, the kind where you close your eyes in appreciation and kind of slump back into your seat. That didn't happen for me here. If I wouldn't have had a hungry husband at home, I wouldn't have bothered getting a to-go box.

On the bright side, the crust was pretty good. It was somewhere between thick and think, of a hand-tossed consistency. And the pizza came with a small bowl of marinara sauce. I spooned this directly onto my slices. Their flavor was moderately improved.

It's nowhere near the quality of pizza served at Blue Moon Pizza or Mulberry Street Pizza in Cobb. Still, it's the best thing I've had at Bambinelli's.

So why has Bambinelli's been around for so long? (Not only is it still in business, it's always busy.) Well, I think there are a couple of reasons. # 1 - it's not just family owned, it's family friendly. Need a high chair? Have a screaming kid (or two) and still want to go out to eat tonight? Bambinelli's is your place. # 2 - it's reasonably priced. You'll spend the same amount you would at Applebee's, so most people can afford it. # 3 - it's consistent. I mean, if you like their food the first time you dine there, you'll always like it.

There is a second location on Lawrenceville Hwy in Lilburn.

Verdict: Wish I could give Bambinelli's my seal of approval, but I can't.


  1. It's not all that unusual for a family operation to enter into a decline over time, especially if there is a steady and loyal clientele. One tends to get sloppy.

    On the other hand, they obviously appeal to a certain audience -- probably the loyal clientele. And as the loyal clientele ages, they are less discerning and more eager to have the same thing over and over and over again.

    Talking with some restauranteurs lately in the ATL, one thing I've heard fairly universal concern over is the lack of really good cooks. No matter how good the chef might be, if you don't have cooks who can execute, you're in trouble. It may be on account of the sheer volume of restaurants in the area, but the supply of genuinely good line cooks seems to have dropped -- or at least that's the perception.

  2. Meanwhile, I have about a three-week window if you want to go have dinner somewhere. I need to get out of the house.