This month, Terry’s restaurant review features Bambino Little Italy Restaurant in Corolla. Mangi!
Not too long ago, if you would have asked me where to find something to eat in the Outer Banks that wasn’t seafood, I would have seriously questioned your palate. After all, the Outer Banks has a well-deserved reputation as having some of the best seafood in the country. With the possible exception of North Carolina pork barbecue, why would you want to eat anything else here?
Not too long ago, if you would have asked me where you could find great Italian food in the Outer Banks, I would have seriously questioned your sanity! "Great Italian food" and "the Outer Banks" are phrases not typically uttered in the same sentence ... for good reason. All that changed this past summer with the opening of Bambino Little Italy in Corolla. Matt Broughton, owner of Cosmos Pizza in the Corolla Light Town Center, purchased the neighboring restaurant formerly known as Nicoletta’s in May of 2011. Although the restaurant looks much the same, Matt, along with Executive Chef Randolph Sprinkle and Sous Chef Amanda Wolf, has brought a new vitality to the place with creative takes on traditional North Carolina dishes and inspired modern Italian cuisine.
Sure, you can find the dishes you would expect to find in an Italian restaurant ... Caprese Salad, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Ravioli, Risotto. They are on the menu, and they are delicious. A personal favorite of mine is the Mushroom Ravioli. Impossibly light ricotta filling inside perfectly al dente ravioli, tossed in a decadent Marsala cream sauce mixed with earthy wild mushrooms, and served over a bed of fresh, spicy arugula. Or, choose the Risotto. Nothing starchy and gummy here. Just expertly cooked, smooth, creamy risotto blended with fresh, seasonal ingredients, such as slow-roasted butternut squash and candied walnuts. Talk about comfort food!
But, if you want to try something a little out of the box, try Chef Sprinkle’s whimsical takes on traditional North Carolina fare. For example, an Italian-style Shrimp and Grits is offered on the menu. Sweet, succulent North Carolina Shrimp is used, but Italian sausage is substituted for the usual bacon, along with mushrooms and peppers in the sauce, and in place of grits, the shrimp and sauce are served over a soft mascarpone polenta. Another creation of Chef Sprinkle’s is the Pork Ribs. The ribs are herb-cured, slow-smoked North Carolina style, then finished on the grill and served over a warm brussel sprout and bacon slaw. Chef Sprinkle has also been known to use pork belly in a similar preparation. I seriously doubt you’ve ever had anything like it!
Be sure to save room for dessert at Bambino’s. Sous Chef Amanda Wolf whips up some amazing creations in that kitchen. Take her caramel macchiato crème brulee (just don’t take mine!). You get all the caramel and espresso goodness you are looking for in a rich, creamy custard topped with the crunchy topping of the brulee. It is to die for!
Bambino’s Little Italy is located in the Corolla Light Town Center. They are now open for lunch from 12:00-2:30, and dinner is served from 5:00- 9:30. The menu is reasonably-priced, with entrees ranging from $15 to $26. A "Bambino's" menu for children under 12, priced at $6, makes this a family-friendly dining destination. A word to the locals: Bambino Little Italy plans on staying open until after the holidays, making it one of the very few places in Corolla to do so. Put Bambino Little Italy on your go-to list. Now there is finally a restaurant that allows us to use "Great Italian Food" and "in the Outer Banks" in the same sentence!