Where To Go Instead Of CarboneIt's not worth it anyway.
Here's the bad news: it's still pretty impossible to find a table at Carbone that doesn't require eating at 5pm or 11pm. The good news? You don't want to eat here anyway. Because dinner at the always-slammed South Beach restaurant is simply not worth the effort. So here are some places to go instead. This guide includes some of Miami's best Italian restaurants that are nearby, and more spots worthy of your fanciest clothes. Plus, they won't leave you crying on the sidewalk in front of a nervous maître d’.
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings / @eatthecanvasllc
Not only is Macchialina our favorite restaurant in South Beach, but it's our favorite Italian restaurant in all of Miami. The straightforward dishes here aren’t needlessly complicated, but still taste like every crumb on the plate has been carefully considered. They make some of the city’s best versions of lasagna and veal parmigiana, and also walk that tricky tightrope between formal and casual. It’s just one mile north of Carbone too, and you won’t need to hire your 14-year-old cousin to hack into Resy in order to get a reservation.
Dead set on visiting a Major Food Group restaurant—and preferably one that serves pasta? Contessa is your best option. It’s more accessible and mature than Carbone. Reservations are almost shockingly easy to find and the quieter crowd isn't as migraine-inducing. Almost everything in here is pink: the walls, the ceilings, the bathrooms, and the round bell-shaped sofas. There’s patio seating on the first floor and an upstairs terrace that overlooks the Design District. Just know that you will still be overcharged for your perfectly fine fusilli in pesto sauce or clam pizza.
photo credit: Courtesy Runway 84
If you’re willing to commute to Broward, Anthony’s is the Carbone of Fort Lauderdale. Technically Anthony’s has been in Fort Lauderdale since the ‘80s. But new ownership recently did a revamp that could earn a cease and desist letter from actual Carbone (yes, there’s spicy rigatoni). This version of Anthony's has a disorienting mix of genuine and forced nostalgia—which translates through the crowd: Lauderdale baby boomers partying their faces off and millennials looking for a Carbone dupe. And while the food is not as good as Carbone, we actually had a better time here. Anthony’s is an undeniable dinner party thanks to very good martinis and an excellent live band that makes the place come alive by crooning out high-energy classics in the middle of the dining room.
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings
Carbone is trying to emulate the old school red sauce energy that a place like Caffe Abbracci already has. So maybe just come here instead. This classic Italian restaurant in Coral Gables is probably where your parents went on their first date, so if you’re looking for a hot new restaurant, this isn’t it. But if you like nostalgia, generous portions of linguine with clams, and gasoline-strong martinis, look no further. Abbracci is a delightful time warp—they still free-pour drinks and price their menu like it’s 2019—but 34 years later, it’s still one of the best Italian spots in Miami.
If you’re hellbent on visiting a popular NYC restaurant, go to Cote. The upscale Korean steakhouse in the Design District is a perfect storm of food, service, and atmosphere. Meat is the main event here, and various servers will take turns tending to the beef sizzling away on the grill located in the center of the table. Every dish—from the tangy ceviche to the ribeye that evaporates the moment it touches your tongue—is amazing. If it’s your first time here, definitely start with the Butcher’s Feast, a $68 per person tasting menu that feels like a 90-minute performance dedicated to all things protein.
Prime 112 is one of South Beach's see-and-be-seen originals, and they still do it better than most. The South of Fifth steakhouse is where you go to dress up and spend too much money on steak and dangerously spillable martinis. It's nostalgic in all the right ways. Reservations have to be made over the phone and NBA players do actually eat in the same dining room as the civilians. Prime 112 still holds up—and not just because of the scene, but also thanks to a fantastic ribeye, multiple forms of delicious potatoes, and complimentary bar bacon.
photo credit: Cleveland Jennings / @eatthecanvasllc
Want to feel like a cool kid and eat some of the best food in Miami? Then go to Boia De, an adorable Italian restaurant that can fit in most overhead compartments. It’s a really fun spot where you’ll eat the world’s best chopped salad, beef tartare, king crab tagliolini nero, and drink wine that your friend will inevitably describe as “funky.” Reservations are also impossible to get, which means you can brag about the fact that you ate here to everyone you meet over the next four months. Or, you can try to come super early and snag walk-in bar seating, which is something to brag about too.
photo credit: Joshua Perez
Wildly popular New York restaurant? Check. Slightly impossible to find a reasonable reservation on a Saturday night? Check. So where do Pastis and Carbone diverge? Rather than Italian-American red sauce, Pastis is an impression of a classic French bistro. And the food is good. Their steak frites is one of the best we’ve had in Miami. But also, Pastis does a better job of functioning as an actual restaurant than Carbone—even if things get a little slammed on the weekend. You’ll most likely be seated on time, and if a friend insists on going here, don’t fight it. You’ll probably have fun.
photo credit: @Hot.Chefs
Is it the spicy rigatoni you crave? Well, Casa Isola is a much more casual option (also in South Beach) that happens to make a spicy rigatoni we like better than Carbone's version. They also make a very solid veal parm and have a patio that works great for eating a big bowl of noodles outside. You will feel overdressed in a tuxedo, but if you’re coming on a weekend, you’ll still want a reservation. Luckily, you won’t need a private investigator to get one.
Here’s another NYC-imported Italian restaurant in South Beach for you. They specialize in pizza here (some of the absolute best pizza in Miami). It can still be a little tough to get a table on a busy night because they don’t take reservations. But it's nowhere near the five-hour ordeal that is getting seated at the New York location. Pizza is what you should order (there's only one size, and you get to pick your toppings), but getting the baked artichoke is also a good idea.
So maybe you want to go to Carbone because you’re looking for a dinner that feels like a big party. Well, every meal we’ve had at Cafe La Trova tends to feel like we’re celebrating something, even if it’s just a random Tuesday. The big restaurant in Little Havana is one of the best Cuban restaurants in Miami and one of the most fun dinner spots in Miami. They have fantastic live music, suave bartenders who will randomly start playing musical instruments, and shareable dishes like arroz con pollo and whole fried snapper.