NYCReview

photo credit: Kate Previte

A spread of dishes from Carbone on a table with a white tablecloth with red chairs.
8.2

Carbone

Italian

Greenwich Village

$$$$Perfect For:People WatchingLunch

Included In

People really like to talk about Carbone. They ask the internet for tips on getting a table, refresh reservation pages at just the right time (10am, by the way), and—at their most desperate—consider paying their way in. When they’re finally permitted to enter this Greenwich Village temple, they eat spicy rigatoni, film tableside caesars, and then determine whether the whole experience was worth it.

Some people love it. But just as often, several hundred dollars later, people deem Carbone "not worth it," share their opinion with the world, and hope it will go viral. 

To put it simply: It's cool to hate Carbone. 

The exterior of Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

A spread of dishes from Carbone on a table with a white tablecloth with red chairs.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The blue interior of Carbone with tables with white tablecloths and large paintings.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The negroni from Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The exterior of Carbone.
A spread of dishes from Carbone on a table with a white tablecloth with red chairs.
The blue interior of Carbone with tables with white tablecloths and large paintings.
The negroni from Carbone.

But it's not that simple. (It never is with us.) At Carbone, your pasta will taste like good pasta. It might not be the best noodle you’ve ever eaten, but it certainly won't be the worst. If someone says that, they're lying, probably in an attempt to pry a like from your chronically-online finger. 

Should you give up your first-born to get a table? Definitely not. Torrisi, also from the Major Food Group, is cooler—and more interesting. But there’s still something exciting about a big, showy evening on Thompson Street, spent next to a dripping candelabra, with the clink of fine crockery and strains of opera filling your ears. If the opportunity arises, you should go to Carbone. 

When will that be? At best, you'll secure a table at lunch on a weekday, or at some ungodly hour of the evening, like 11:45pm. (We've experienced both.) At worst, you’ll get a spot on the Patio, which is—you guessed it—a glorified dining structure. Cancel accordingly. We’ve heard you might be able to walk in at lunch, but wouldn't dare try this at dinner. 

The meatballs, rigatoni and sauces from Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The blue interior of Carbone with tables with white tablecloths and large paintings.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The top of the seafood tower from Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Veal parmesan from Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The meatballs, rigatoni and sauces from Carbone.
The blue interior of Carbone with tables with white tablecloths and large paintings.
The top of the seafood tower from Carbone.
Veal parmesan from Carbone.

In the evening, the blood-red curtains are drawn shut, providing veal parm eaters with the utmost privacy. For just a moment, when the doorman cheek-kisses two women who live above the restaurant, this seems like a little neighborhood spot, not a global empire with seven locations and counting.

Inside, a purple-suited server will hand you a comically large menu and introduce themselves as your “captain,” while others whirl around the dark blue space, wheeling dessert carts, singing happy birthday in unison, and placing a hunk of parmesan onto your plate with the tip of a very large knife. If you brought someone here who had somehow never heard of Carbone, the hospitality might convince them this place opened way before 2013. 

Lunch might be even better. The curtains are pulled back to let in the daylight, nobody seems to care how long you stay, and it's something of a revelation to drink a Negroni in one of three rooms, all full of people who don't have to worry about a day job.

Yes, Carbone is restaurant theater, with pretty exclusive ticketing. But this is New York City, and if you do get a seat, it's one show you shouldn’t miss. At best, you'll have a very memorable meal, with food that is pleasurable and decidedly not bad. At worst, you'll still be able to tell everyone you went to Carbone.

@infatuation_nyc no one asked for another carbone review, but at least this one's honest #carbonenyc #carbone #nycrestaurants #honestrestaurantreview @willa grace moore ♬ original sound - Infatuation NYC

Food Rundown

The free bread and meats and cauliflower from Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The Things You Get For Free

A meal at Carbone begins with an assortment of free things, and if you ate every single one of them, you could get pretty full before you even order. (Consider this a hack.) The appetizers vary, but you can expect an assortment of breads, cured meats, lightly pickled cauliflower, and a small bowl of warm mozzarella, cut into four pieces at your table.
The seafood tower from Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

The Raw Bar

Just when we thought we were sick of restaurants putting raw fish on a plate and charging $30 for it, we tried the salmon crudo with paper thin slivers of fennel and lots of lemon zest during lunch at Carbone. We like crudo again.

Caesar Salad

You don’t order this for the taste—it’s just slightly underdressed, and showered in a bit too much ricotta salata. You get it for the tableside performance. Just know: when we came here at 11:45pm, we were not given the tableside show. Perhaps by this time the caesar-maker has gone home, and we hope they have good dreams.
The house chopped salad from Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Chopped Salad

The sleeper hit of the salads. Appropriately dressed and finished with crispy mushrooms, you won’t miss the tableside presentation at all.
the baked clams from Carbone

photo credit: Kate Previte

Baked Clams

Calling these baked clams is selling them short, because it’s not one type of baked clams, it’s three. There’s clams oreganata, but also baked clams covered in a thin layer of lardo, and Mario Carbone’s signature clams, each of which are topped with a small dollop of sweet uni. It is luxurious.
The spicy rigatoni vodka pasta from Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Spicy Rigatoni Vodka

So many versions of this cult-favorite pasta exist now—including the one at Parm, which is also owned by Major Food Group—that we figure there must be at least one out there that’s better than the original. That doesn’t really matter though. Because you can’t eat any of those other pastas at Carbone. The rigatoni is pleasantly curvy, the sauce is onion-heavy, and the haters will say it’s not spicy, but the spice-averse will say it’s just spicy enough.

Ravioli al Ragu

How does a noodle covered in vodka sauce gain a fan following? We might never figure it out, but all the spicy rigatoni chatter means that nobody ever talks about the ravioli. And the ravioli is good. It’s filled with some of the softest ricotta we’ve ever encountered, and laid gently on a bed of meat sauce. Try the rigatoni, but try this too.
The meatballs from Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Mario's Meatballs

Although named after Mario himself, these meatballs are a bit dense for our liking. The red sauce is deeply savory, but you don’t need to go out of your way for it. You can always buy it at the grocery store.
Veal parmesan from Carbone.

photo credit: Kate Previte

Veal Parm

The veal parm at Carbone is $89. You could easily skip it and just focus on the pastas, salads, and the raw bar. (Or swap it for three Negronis.) But if you've come here with the desire to spend money—and spend it liberally—order it. Who knows when you'll be back.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

Suggested Reading

Torrisi Bar & Restaurant image
8.9

Torrisi Bar & Restaurant

From the people who brought you Carbone, Torrisi Bar & Restaurant is a big, glitzy spot in Nolita with a lively scene and an inventive Italian menu.

The interior of Emilio's Ballato.
8.8

The long line and the celebrity guests at this classic Nolita Italian restaurant get all the attention. But you should come for the food.

a few pastas and other dishes from Roscioli in NYC

Where to eat Italian in NYC when you aren’t willing to settle.

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