Sunday, April 7, 2013
While I'd never visited the restaurant as Rocco's, they carried over its retro appeal. The current decor exudes the swanky glamour of a 1950's era supper club. From the red and black tiled floor to crystal chandeliers and grinning waiters in ill-fitting tuxedos, an old school charm abounds. And leave your thinking cap at the door, because Carbone does not aim to challenge you (except if you don't know any Italian at all, because then you might miss some of the cheeky translations and plays-on-words throughout the restaurant). While your at it, check your coat as well, because even if you naturally tend cool, there is an welcoming warmth that immediately toasts things right up.
It feels like Carbone has a big heart. It also has big menus, big portions and big prices. Not that they might not be justified, but it's the kind of place you gotta know what you're getting into. The ticket will be steep. If you order an antipasti plate at $45 a head, there's no way you're getting out on the cheap (you're paying for really supreme quality here, so factor that in). Luckily, you're bequeathed with an abundance of freebies soon after the menus arrive: nubbly hunks of pungent parmesan, a bountiful bread basket full of
focaccia, slices of nutty semolina, long, spindly grissini, and a charming little dish of surprisingly spicy giardiniera. Consider these sustenance for navigating the
enormous menus, both in shape and scope. You'll entirely lose your dining companion during the ordering procedure, so you'll have to make up your mind on your own or play curtain-call raising and lowering the comically large scripts to coordinate your orders: you certainly won't need two of anything. Of the vast array of starters, I couldn't not try the Vegetable Supremo, only to find (much to my chagrin) that, actually, I couldn't. They had been toying around with a few different configurations of it which never finalized, and then decided to scrap it entirely (menus that big get printed early and there was no going back). Apparently I was, in fact, the absolute FIRST person to request it! Granted,
we didn't sample any of the myriad pastas on
These are the Platonic Ideal of sauteed mushroom: not a hint of mush, edges crisped and centers dense. Salty, chewy, tender, eyes-rolling back in your head delicious. And such an assortment: shiitake, matsutake, oysters, and trumpets mingled with garlic, onions and herbs. Oh, I could've just had a bowl of these and called it a night (but for all the other delicacies I would've missed out on, of course).
Delicacies, literally, are on the cart of desserts- although delicate they are not. Really displayed on a rolling cart, like in movies of yore. Big and beautiful, once again, with a monstrous tiramisu, gargantuan cheesecake served with a blueberry compote, these sweets are displayed whole, but they don't seem much diminished in size when you receive your portion. A thick, cake-cut wedge of tiramisu loses its decorative ladyfingers in plating, instead the heel is coated in a rich toffee crumb.
The housemade gelatos are
outstanding- a cucumber-mint was my favorite: simultaneously refreshing and indulgent, but equally good was a creamy, mild coconut version and a zesty blood orange sorbet.
I am not one that typically considers fruit dessert (unless it is cobbled or pied or otherwise decadently adulterated), but Mario's insanely juicy bruleed grapefruit took on an exotic note with savory whole fennel and caraway seeds studding its crunchy caramelized sugar crust, daubed with an herbal gelato and decorated with shreds of citrus zest. Not that any of this is necessary: each table is provided complimentary sambuca, housemade limoncello and vin santo along with a small plate of
ethereally light crostoli that were hard to stop eating, or melting upon your tongue, as it were. So delicate they were I'm sure the powdered sugar was the only thing keeping them from floating off the table. If you paid attention to how full you were, these with a rich doppio from Intelligentsia would make a perfect finale, and more sane than the abbondanza in which we indulged. Except for that that's the kind of place Carbone is. Once in awhile, you just gotta do it up big.
181 Thompson Street
between Bleecker & Houston
New York, NY 10012
Posted by webdebnyc at 5:43 PM