In case you haven't figured this out already, Immaculate Infatuation loves a good time. We'll go to extreme lengths to find one, too, although usually not at the dinner table. Sadly, we rarely come back from a restaurant amped on adrenaline and exhausted from laughing. Going out to dinner is supposed to be fun. Yet, these days, both restaurants and their entitled self-proclaimed "foodie" clientele sometimes are at fault of taking themselves too seriously, therefore losing the plot. Well, that's not the case at Carbone. This place is a f*cking blast.
You might be wondering why it took us so long to weigh in on Carbone, the 2013 restaurant game Yeezus. Well, we couldn't get in. We had good luck walking in late as a two top, but we wanted to go with a big crew, as that's the proper way to do Carbone. Procuring a reservation at a reasonable hour was damn near impossible. After failing on Open Table for 90 days straight, we had to resort to begging the girl on the phone to fit us in at a time that wasn't 10:45pm. We even offered to hand deliver her a Cronut, free of charge. Our conspiracy theory is that you have to "know someone" to get at table in the 7 or 8pm hour. Pretty much every millionaire who considers themselves both cultured and cool has some cash invested in this spot, and those VIP's and their swaths of associates jam up all the good time slots, making us common folk have to get creative. The suspense and drama of the chase certainly adds to the excitement of game day though.
Aesthetic, theme, close attention to detail and awesome food; that's the recipe for success we've seen so far from the young, hotshot chef duo of Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi. It never seems to get too complicated and it always seems to be delicious. Carbone is their grand interpretation of the throwback Italian red sauce joint, a place where people come to take a load off and stuff themselves drunk with classic Italian fare amongst friends. The room may appear reasonably ordinary, but the atmosphere is anything but. People get fired up to eat here and the vibe is contagious. Carbone is a special place in that regard, something that goes a long way in our book (and our rating scale).
Dinner at Carbone is quite a production. A captain, not a waiter, is assigned to your table. Your captain most likely flopped on Broadway at some point in their career, which means they're way over qualified for this new gig as an acting server. We usually want to leave Broadway shows within 10 minutes, so we were pleasantly surprised that they pulled off this whole theatrical part of the experience with minimal cheese, and maximum entertainment. It could have gone either way. The food was no different. Go ahead, be skeptical about an absurdly massive menu (in size) highlighted by rigatoni vodka and veal parmesan - not necessarily things you order much ever since graduating college. Well, you're ordering them at Carbone and they're going to blow your mind.
Sure, Carbone is expensive, but you're going to spend money dining out in NYC. That's the nature of the beast. You might as well spend a little more and thoroughly enjoy yourself. As my Mom has always said, you make your own good time in life. Well, if you can't make your own good time at Carbone, good luck doing such anywhere else.
Food RundownSeafood Cocktail Collections
Raw bar? Our first inclination was to skip. However, don't you dare. The way you start a meal at Carbone is with a couple of their fresh seafood selections. This isn't oysters and crab legs. This is absurd ceviches and sliced raw fish salads. The thinly sliced scallop we had was as good as any seafood appetizer we've ever eaten. Likewise, the thick slices of belly tuna and salmon in olive oil based marinades, topped with thinly sliced radishes and scallions were incredible. Needless to say, we're now very much looking forward to checking out ZZ's Clam Bar.Assorted Baked Clams
Not our favorite of the apps. A bunch of small-ish cherrystone looking clams, all with different preparations. Some had lard, some had uni, some had bacon and breadcrumbs and butter, but none of them were overly exciting.Octopus Pizzaiolo
An amazing octopus appetizer. Charred tentacles are mixed up with an Italian sorbet of goodness including peppers, onions, something with crunch and something with heat. Order it. You will be happy.Meatballs
Big balls made with three different meat that have tons of flavor and are served in an awesome red sauce. A must order at Carbone.Sweetbread Milanese
I wouldn't say I love sweetbreads, but I definitely find myself enjoying them when they're ordered. That wasn't the case in this case though, so, unless you're a big sweetbread fan, you might want to keep away from Carbone's flattened and fried take. The people at the table who were real into Sweetbreads definitely enjoyed though.Caesar alla ZZ
There's been a lot of hype surrounding this table-side prepared caesar, and it definitely delivers. It's simple - leafy greens with pecorino and anchovies only if you want - but all kinds of delicious.Macaroni
Definitely spend some time in this section of the menu, the pastas are solid a couple should be ordered to split. They're not going to compete with the Michael Whites or Mario Batalis of the world, but all the al dente noodles will get they get the job done. The Spicy Rigatoni Vodka is incredible. It's really spicy, but easily the best "penne vodka" we've had in recent memory. We enjoyed the Fettuccini with Mushrooms. The big fluffy Tortellini al Ragu are spot on, although you don't get a lot of them for $25. The only miss we had was the Linguini Vongole.It was just missing that special something, nothing made us want to take another bite. Lobster Fra Diavolo
$80+ buys you a f*cking massive lobster. But we've gotta say, this fell a little flat for us. The grilled lobby was a tad overcooked, and the meat was a little on the dry side. That being said, we still crushed the entire thing. We'd probably skip it next time though.Veal Parmesan
You've heard a lot about this dish and its $50 price tag. Well then, order it. Share it with the table, which is how you should be orchestrating this entire menu. If you are smart and go with a big enough group, you can order plenty of food and get out for a little over $100 a head. Not cheap, but certainly manageable compared to how daunting the menu looks. Back to the veal parm. It's absolutely glorious. It's unclear as to exactly why it's so good, but there's clearly something special sprinkled on top. It was so good that we ordered it again on our second trip, even though we'd heard the Veal Marsala is supposedly even better. Our loss.Zuppa di Pesce
A lot of the dishes here are spicy, so if you don't like a little kick, you may not love Carbone as much as we do. The spicy tomato based broth in this soup of the sea was ridiculous good. There was a lot of lobster in here, some squid, shrimp, shellfish, whitefish... All kinds of action. It was worth every penny of the $45 price tag. Again, share it amongst the table, that's how you properly conquer this restaurant.Delmonico alla Chianti
A nice big steak, with a beautifully crisp charcoaled crust. Don't be shy.Sides
Polenta was fine, we wouldn't bother with it though. The Creamed Escarole had bacon bits in it and was pretty awesome and the Crispy Rabe was pretty damn tasty too. All that being said, you probably don't need to order sides. You'll have plenty of food and they're not worth the extra $12 a pop.Dessert
They roll out the dessert truck, and, just like it's always been, items that appear on carts or in glass casings always seem to look better than they actually are. Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed stuffing our faces with a banana split sundae, chocolate layer cake and the Instagram famous carrot cake, but we wouldn't come back for any of them. OK, maybe the carrot cake. But besides that, nothing was particularly memorable.