You know how every time a relative/friend from home/ghost from the past that knows all of your secrets comes to visit, they want to go see a show? Have fun at Red Lobster and that musical with Nick Lachey in it, because you definitely don’t have Hamilton tickets and you definitely aren’t going to end up eating somewhere good beforehand. At least there’s no chance you’ll be bumping into any of your new “city friends” that night and having to explain your high school nickname to them. You’re a different person now, “Cruiser.”
Then again, if you’re reading The Infatuation, you’re probably the type who won’t entertain any of that nonsense and refuses to go to Times Square for any friend. Instead, you end up taking every visitor around on a greatest hits restaurant glory tour and by the time they leave you’re fantasizing about salads and sleep and a lower interest rate on your credit card and maybe moving. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can just take people to Carbone. It’s one of our all-time great restaurants, and it’s also the best Off-Broadway show in New York City.
Maybe not literally. But Carbone is certainly as much of a show as it is a restaurant, and it’s an impressive one. Owned and operated by one of New York’s most successful restaurant groups (Sadelle’s, Santina, Parm, Dirty French), Carbone is the live theater interpretation of every great red sauce Italian restaurant you’ve seen in the movies. You know, the ones with Chazz Palmienteri in (all of) them. The entire restaurant is a perfectly designed set, and the person serving you isn’t a waiter, he’s a “captain” in a red tuxedo, and he’s also basically an actor. An actor who just flipped around a chair at your table and sat down backwards on it to tell you about the specials and makes sure you know that he’s “here for whatever you need.” He’s also gonna “bring over some meatballs because you look hungry.” The whole thing is completely over the top, but in a good way. Well, in a mostly good way. The price of admission is a meal that will set you back $400 for four people if you order correctly.
Luckily, the food delivers, too, and overall Carbone is a lot of fun, even if you’re not using it to entertain someone who lives in a state that doesn’t touch water. It’s a great spot for a once-in-a-year special occasion, especially if the whole family is coming. Just know that it’s still one of the toughest tickets in town.
Better hope you can snag a reservation, Cruiser.
The meatballs are a must order at Carbone, as they should be at any self-respecting red sauce Italian restaurant. They’re big and shareable and just like your captain said, you look hungry.
Caesar Alla ZZ
A classic caesar salad prepared tableside and made up of simple but excellent ingredients. We’d eat this thing if they prepared it in a trash can behind the restaurant. So good.
Spicy Rigatoni Vodka
Want to know what to order at Carbone? There are a lot of options on this menu, and most of them are really damn good. But if you don’t have this spicy rigatoni on your table, you have officially failed the exam. This is the best thing on the menu and one of the best pasta dishes in the entire city.
This thing is pricey ($60) and the size of most average New York City restaurant tables, but Carbone isn’t an average New York City restaurant, and you’re not here to save money. Figure out a buddy system and make a plan to finish it.
All of the desserts at Carbone are classic, but this carrot cake is the can’t-miss. It’s also so dense and so big that it could double as a levee in the event of a hurricane. Keep that in mind.