I had such a memorable and fun dining experience the other night at Carbone, the brand new, hottest ticket in town, old school Italian restaurant in the old Rocco space on Thompson Street. Carbone is brought to you from the boys over at the extremely successful and delicious Torrisi Italian Specialties and Parm. From the moment this restaurant opening was announced, the foodie community has been all over it eagerly anticipating Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone's latest venture. So when I scored a reservation weeks in advance for a 10PM seating on a Thursday night, I was pretty pumped.
From the moment you walk in, Carbone transports you to a 1950's old world Italian restaurant, complete with life size menus, servers in Zac Posen designed burgundy tuxes, and tunes that match the ambience. It feels like a scene out of The Godfather. It's a dark and cozy place, with 2 smallish rooms and a tiny semi-circle bar in the back that holds about 6 people comfortably. The drinks are expensive at $15 a pop, but they are stellar, and were actually brought down from the original $20 price tag. After about 40 minutes, 2 drinks and 3 check ins with the hostess, we are still not seated. I'm livid. It's now 10:45, I have a reservation, and they could care less. The horrid review began writing itself in my mind....
But then, the evening took quite a turn. We were quickly seated and given the "freebies" (or not, given the hefty price tag of this meal), consisting of a chunk of Parmesan Cheese (YUM), and an amazing looking Bread Basket including Grandma Bread, Breadsticks, and the most delicious, oily, garlicky, crispy Garlic Bread I've ever had in my life. YUM.
Our old waiter was not too thrilled about the 'no meat no shellfish' rule we imposed on him, and condescendingly said something like "well then, you're on your own". Really? Thanks for the help, man. We still managed to do okay.
Some friends of ours walked in soon after and they accommodated us by moving us to a table for 6 in the back room. Here's where things get interesting...Not 2 tables down from us sits Jake Gyllenhaal, Jay-Z, and about 10 of their friends, loudly talking, drinking, eating (making animal grunting noises !?) and having a great time. FINE. Maybe I can let slide that wait time. Now as a New Yorker, I see famous people time to time. New Yorkers are cool like that. We just roll with it and realize we live in the best city in the world, and sitting next to Jay-Z, or Jonah Hill (like I did the other day at Smile to Go), is one of the many perks. Regardless, it's still pretty awesome. We didn't bother them, just snuck some flashless photos and admired our dining mates, even as they pretty much took over the spot and started smoking cigarettes amongst over things (happy 4/20!) right at the table. Funnnnnnnnn. But I digress. I guess this review should at some point mention the delicious food we consumed.
Appetizers. Caesar Salad, I'm told is usually prepared table side. It wasn't for us. It was good and garlicky. I actually liked the version I had at Speedy Romeo the other day better. The Asparagus Genovese was excellent. House Chopped Salad also good, but nothing crazy.
Main courses we went all out on the pasta. Spicy Rigatoni Vodka. Please order this. Al dente, spicy (but not inedible), delicious. Top item of the night. The other pastas were also great. We had the Penne Primavera, The Fettucine Con Funghi and the Angel Hair AOP. Rigatoni and Angel Hair were probably my favs, but really they are all excellent. The Polenta Torrisi is a definite winner as well, and the Funghi Trifolati was licked clean.
As if all those carbs weren't enough, we ordered 4 desserts including Nutella Tiramisu, Banana Split, Cheesecake and Carrot Cake. We also got another freebie of sugar dusted crisps, and shots of Grappa was offered all around. My favorites are the Carrot Cake with ginger ice-cream and candied walnuts and the Cheesecake. WOW! Order both.
Go on OpenTable, and book any reservation you can get here. It's expensive, and they make you wait, nontheless its a great spot and I highly recommend it. I can't promise you celebrity sightings, but the food was incredible, the service for the most part was good, and it was just a really great, great night. Can't wait to go back. I love New York.
Neighborhood: Greenwich Village
Bite Mark: ****
Good For: Hot Spot, Trendy, Impress your Date, Family Dinner, Special Occasion
Carbone, 181 Thompson St 212=254-3000 www.carbonenewyork.com