Two of the things I appreciate about New York when compared to my former home, Washington, D.C., are cheap manicures and the plethora of party brunches. Unlike Washington, where there is only one party brunch, La Boum, in New York there are party brunches everywhere. If I had it my way, I’d gladly eat every meal dancing on my chair and with a DJ booth in the corner. And living in the city that never sleeps, this may actually be possible.
But what’s a party brunch without a special occasion? I’m all for celebrating the weekend, but on this particular sunny Saturday afternoon a group of 15 girls gathered to celebrate the birthday of one of my best Bitches, Molly. Molly is a true foodie, in the sense of this overused catchphrase, and has been my gastronomic partner in crime since I arrived here in New York.
Together, we braved the long line at Smorgasburg for the Ramen Burger, experienced the best sushi of our lives at Tanoshi, and attempted to conquer the epic Chicken Parm Pizza at Quality Italian. So despite the generic-looking exterior of Il Bastardo, I fully trusted that Molly had organized a killer brunch party and she proved me right. I knew this wasn’t an everyday brunch once we were carded at the door.
We were promptly seated at a long table in the center of the primary dining room, which gave us a great vantage point for people watching as well as a chance to catch some rays of sunshine from the floor-to-ceiling windows. We all agreed that it was a nice change to actually see the light of day at a party brunch, rather than being completely disoriented when stumbling out of a dark basement at 4 p.m. to the afternoon sun.
The glossy black chandeliers and rich brocade wallpaper gave the establishment the feel of an exclusive club. It was also clear that several of our fellow patrons came to Il Bastardo to celebrate as well. After scoping out the attractive brunch attendees, our group of ladies concluded this would be an ideal place to meet guys if you were single. A few of my Bitches even left with some phone numbers scribbled on their napkins.
We tipped our hats to the fact that pitchers of mimosas and bottles of straight champagne were provided immediately upon our seating. The wait staff clearly knew that we were celebrating and ensured we were never thirsty—even as we waited for the entire party to arrive and order their entrees included in the $39 deal. The champagne was served lukewarm and in plastic cups, but at this reasonable price point, we weren’t too picky.
My girlfriend Austen and I are suckers for any iteration of a charcuterie plate so we both quickly opted for the prosciutto Benedict. Our food arrived quickly, but we were disappointed with our choice. The English muffin was extremely over-toasted—rendering it nearly impossible to cut through—and the side of home fries were cool and soggy. The star of the dish was the prosciutto, but with the inedible bread it would be a stretch to call this a Benny.
Meghan and Katrina wanted a hearty entrée to sustain the afternoon of celebrating and ordered the Panino al Pollo. The sandwich contained chicken, onions, arugula, and red bell pepper, but both babes agreed that it could have benefited from a dressing or a spread as it was quite dry. However, Meghan loved the dressing on the side salad and noted that the leaves stayed crisp.
Casey went the classic route and ordered the omelet with Virginia ham and mixed vegetables. She lamented that she couldn’t taste the cheese and would prefer the omelet with more veggies. In the end, she deemed that this entrée was mediocre at best.
Unsurprisingly, the birthday girl ordered the most random item on the brunch menu: Penne alla Messinese, which was served with shrimp, arugula, and chopped fresh tomatoes. Molly reported that this was a straight-forward dish that was cooked perfectly al dente with a good kick to the garlicky sauce. However, she was scared to try the shrimp at this club-like establishment and was left with a fishy taste despite nibbling around the crustaceans.
Sondra, the pickiest eater of the bunch, ordered the house pancakes with a side of bacon. As soon as she was served, she immediately regretted her decision to order sweet over savory and passed the dish over to our side of the table. We devoured the fluffy, fruit-topped pancakes and Austen declared that she wished she originally ordered these pancakes instead of our prosciutto “Benedict.”
To remedy her brunch order indecision, Sondra ordered two additional sides of bacon as her meal. The girl lives on cheese, spicy mayo, and bacon so no one batted an eye. Bacon lovers take note…Sondra gave the pieces of crispy pork two thumbs up.
Since this brunch fete was in Chelsea, a few of us speculated that we might get a chance drag queen sighting…it has happened before! Spoiler alert: yes, there were dancers. We squealed with delight when two dancers in full showgirl garb emerged from downstairs and playfully danced and posed with the dozens of bachelorettes and birthday boys. The dancers arrived conveniently as our plates were cleared so we were plenty buzzed from the bottomless mimosas and didn’t have to worry about our sleeves dipping in syrup as we danced along.
We closed our check at Il Bastardo with happy hearts and farewell shots on the house. Everyone had a blast, most importantly Molly, our Birthday Bitch. It came as no surprise when I received an email a few days later as the save the date for Sondra’s birthday brunch at where else…Il Bastardo.
The Bitches say: A-. The food could be better, but they hit the mark with a lively party ambiance complete with a top-notch DJ and professional dancers. Our cups were never empty so we felt that we truly got our money’s worth at this reasonably priced bottomless brunch.
191 7th Ave (between 21st and 22nd Street)
New York, NY 10011
Il Bastardo serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.