Purists know the fabled sandwich as a staple of American comfort food. Ask them for their take on the longstanding Pat’s vs. Geno’s debate, and it might end up in a fistfight. Tell them you’ve had a cheesesteak at an Arby’s, and it for sure will. For Bambini’s co-owner Chip Storm, the perfect cheesesteak can be summed up as follows: “It all starts with the bread,” he says, adding that Bambini’s flies theirs in from the famed Amoroso’s Baking Co. in Philadelphia. The second ingredient is the beef, and thirdly, the toppings.
For the couple that owns Ski Tech Santa Fe, it was do or die. Sunny summer in Santa Fe might be nice, but not for a ski equipment shop. So, they decided to rebrand themselves, park a custom-built, candy–apple-red food truck in front of their shop and take a stab at the food business.
“It was something my dad [Bambini’s chef, Steve Pompei] and I had talked about doing our whole lives,” Chip’s wife Lynsey Pompei-Storm says. “My dad was born and raised in Philly—I’ve been going to Philly my whole life—and pretty much, now we just go back to eat.”
Borrowing from the tasty treks, the menu is compact and to the point. The signature steak ($8.49) is loaded with Angus sirloin and onions on a hoagie roll, and served with a choice of Provolone or American or Cheese Whiz. The real gangster, like me, favors the latter. Thirty cents extra upgrades your standard steak to the “Storm” variety, and throws in hearty green chile, “added to kick it up a notch,” to boot.
A trio of heaping hoagies—the prosciutto-laden Pompei, the Bianchi turkey and the artichoke Veggiebinni round out the menu at $8.79 each. Room for sides? An order of Bambini fries at $1.99 (50 cents extra for cheese) or the soup of the day (a basil-infused clam chowder on the day I visited) are sure to seal the deal.
Providing an “authentic” experience is what the Storms aim for. “You can get a Philly cheesesteak pretty much at any restaurant in town,” Pompei-Storm says. “The meat [on them] needs to be thinner; they add mushrooms and bell peppers—which is fine—but it’s not what a real Philly is.”
The Storm Steak comes hulking out of its paper wrapping, living up to its hype, ready to break out. The roll fights the good fight and does its best to contain the thin-sliced beef, which, on a good bite, unravels like a paper streamer.
The chile and onions complement and do not overpower. The Whiz? Well, that’s just the creamy mortar that holds the delicious brick house together.
As well as diversifying the local food truck scene, the couple hopes the venture allows them to save up and one day start a family. “Bambini means ‘the children,’” the fairer Storm explains.
The outing ends with the pièce de résistance, handmade cannoli—which not only satisfies my sweet cravings, but also my oral fixation, with their creamy, overstuffed filling. A true uppercut, they run at $2.49 a pop. A couple of those, and you’ll surely find me racing up the Roundhouse stairs à la Rocky. Bambini’s is a knockout.
Open: Monday-Saturday, 11 am-3 pm
Serving: cheese-tastic steaks and heaping hoagies
Best bet: the kickass Storm Steak