181 Thompson St.
New York, NY 10012
Tel. +1 212 254-3000
Crudo; Tuna and Scallops
Spicy Rigatoni Vodka
Double Lamb Chops
1973 Dom Pérignon
1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg
1989 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Santo Stefano
1966 Chateau Palmer (Mähler-Besse)
1989 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Carbone is quite the scene. Waiters in tuxedos work the room with flair,
the music is loud and the place is literally jumping with energy. It all looks
like something straight out of a 1950s mob movie. We are a bit late for our
reservation, which is probably a huge no-no here given the number of people who
walk in and are politely given long waiting times, but luckily we are seated quickly. There
is an air of secrecy to Carbone, almost like a private club. Many of the patrons
are clearly regulars, including quite a few people from the worlds of show
business, art and fashion.
Crudo; Tuna and
Partners Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick
serve up classic Italian-American comfort food with a few twists. Spaghetti Puttanesca, Lobster Fra
Diavolo and Veal Parmesan are all available, as are a handful of more simply prepared mains. The oversize menus are another flamboyant touch,
but the descriptions are quite minimal, so its best to ask your
captain about preparations as you enjoy the homemade bread and Parmigiano
Reggiano on the table. There is something for every palate (and budget) on
Carbone’s extensive wine list, which goes well beyond Italy. Bling-bling,
glamorous Champagnes share space with grower wines. Napa Valley and Bordeaux
are also surprisingly well represented.
Spicy Rigatoni Vodka
As this is my first dinner at Carbone, I defer to some of my
friends who are more familiar with the menu. Our two crudos, tuna and scallops,
are both delicious and also examples of the more contemporary Italian kitchen.
No one was eating raw fish like this in Italian restaurants in the 1950s, that's for sure. The Spicy Rigatoni Vodka, a
Carbone signature, is bold and lusty, but not at all overpowering, although I
would have preferred the pasta be cooked a true al dente. The grilled lamb chops are delicious, while a mound of perfectly grilled ribs is more than we can get through.
Double Lamb Chops
The 1973 Dom Pérignon is a big wine to start dinner
with. Powerful and vinous, it reminds me a bit of the 2003 because of its pure
depth. It’s hard to see the 1973 improving much from here, but it has enough
intensity to drink well for many years to come. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s
1990 Richebourg is one of the raciest Richebourgs I can remember tasting.
Utterly explosive in the glass, the 1990 possesses superb richness and more
than enough fruit to nearly cover the typically imposing Richebourg tannins.
What a gorgeous Burgundy this is.
Sadly, this bottle of Bruno
Giacosa’s 1989 Barbaresco Riserva Santo Stefano is not among the best. The 1989 is supple and silky on the palate, but the knock-out
aromatics and pure power that are signatures of the 1989 are missing. The 1966 Palmer is simply remarkable.
Boasting superb pliancy for a wine of its age, the 1966 is incredibly deep and
polished throughout. The flavors are broad, dark and inviting. We end on a high
note with the sublime 1989 Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Powerful yet also
super-finessed, the 1989 boasts extraordinary aromatics, seemingly endless
fruit and striking inner sweetness. A real knock-out, the 1989 is hauntingly
beautiful from the very first taste.
The dessert cart looks positively dangerous, but on this
night we opt to skip the sweets. I am sure there will be another occasion.
Readers who want to visit Carbone should plan well in
advance, as reservations are hard to come by. Prices are on the high side. Although the boisterous ambience is not especially suited to quiet night on the
town, Carbone has a great vibe and an element of what I can only describe as
childlike joy that underpins the entire dining experience.
-- Antonio Galloni