The moment you step inside Carbone you are instantly transported.
The dimly lit but lively dining room is both an homage to your Italian grandmother’s house as well as the restaurant where Michael shoots Sollozzo and McCluskey in The Godfather.
The place is immediately familiar and cozy. You may even recognize furniture and light fixtures if you grew up around Italian-Americans.
The music is all the great crooner hits from your favorite mob movies like Goodfellas, with some doo-wop classics from Bronx Tale mixed in. Not too loud, not too soft. And the food is some of the best red sauce Italian-American cuisine I’ve ever had.
The sharply dressed, deep burgundy tuxedo-clad servers will first bring to the table a basket of tomato focaccia, garlic bread and sliced Italian bread.
There’s also a plate of pickled cauliflower to snack on, some locally made finocchiona salami, and of course a nice hunk of parmigiano reggiano cheese.
We started with the truffle emulsion Piedmontese beef carpaccio, which is served with some peppery arugula, walnuts, chives, coarse salt, sliced mushrooms and a generous drizzle of some killer olive oil. This was hands down the best carpaccio dish I’ve ever had.
Their baked clams are pretty great as well. My favorite of the three styles is that center one, topped with pesto and uni. Absolutely awesome.
We tried three pasta dishes, because we are savage animals. The first was the spicy rigatoni vodka, which they describe as being “part of the DNA” of Carbone.
This was perfect. Perfectly spicy sauce, perfectly cooked pasta. Easily one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had this year. This is a must order pasta dish when you dine here. Even if you split it as an appetizer or something. Get that Carbone DNA in your mouth!
Next was the orecchiette with beans and cabbage.
This seasonal pasta was mildly reminiscent of the “pasta e fagiole” that I ate growing up, only with the escarole swapped out for cabbage, and with a less porridge-like texture. This you can eat with a fork on a plate, unlike what I grew up eating, which required a bowl and a spoon. Either way, delicious.
Finally, the tortellini with meaty ragu.
I’m generally not a huge fan of tortellini, but that’s probably because I’m used to the frozen or vac-sealed grocery store products that I usually eat cold (and dense) in a salad with olives, peppers and cheese. These bundles of joy were stellar. The stuffing inside was almost creamy, without any grainy or lumpy ricotta texture. And the sauce was going down my throat by the spoonful. Loved these. Absolutely beautiful plating as well.
We had a short break after the pasta and took down a trio of beautiful meatballs.
These off-menu delights are nice and tender, and packed with flavor. Rustically formed, you can sometimes get a chunk of melty cheese or a piece of soft, roasted garlic in the occasional lucky bite. These were great. Don’t be alarmed, either; they will be served pink in the middle.
For the entrees, we had both the veal parm and the pork chop with peppers. The veal was pounded out flat, and fried to a golden crisp with seasoned breadcrumbs. The bright sauce and melted cheese (both mozz and ricotta, with some grated parm on top) were topped with crispy basil leaves to bring home that nice herbaceous pop.
What a dish! They even serve it with the breaded and fried rib bone alongside the cutlet. And if you take some to go in a doggy bag, they’ll send you home with a sesame seed bun to make a sandwich out of the leftovers.
The pork with peppers reminded me of when my mom used to cook pork chops with cherry peppers and sliced potatoes as a kid. Nothing beats the taste of nostalgia, but this was a pretty close runner up. Those red peppers and onions on the side were delicious.
We were so stuffed that we had to skip dessert, despite the selections looking fantastic. I really wanted a slice of the lemon cheesecake.
But the captain, Jared, brought over some snacks for us after he saw how infatuated we were with all the little details in the restaurant that reminded us of growing up with Italian grandparents.
The rainbow cookies with espresso (and a splash of Sambuca!)…
The Jordanian candy-coated almonds (just like those old Italian wedding favors in the mesh bag)…
The simplicity of cotton candy grapes and walnuts (reminded me of Christmas Eve)…
And, of course, the Italian cookies and pastries from an old tin box…
It’s no wonder this place has a Michelin star and has become a tough reservation to score. I generally don’t like hyped up joints, but here it is well-deserved. We even saw Adam Sandler there. This place is worth your time and money. Go, as soon as you can! And if you’ve already been, then go back.
I went to Don Angie with a group of friends, so we tried almost half of the menu. I tried two cocktails; the Uncle Jimmy (Islay scotch, amaretto, bitters and lemon) and the Pinky Ring (bourbon, carpano, galliano and campari). Both were really nice.
We started with the stuffed garlic flatbread for the table.
This was delicious, especially when eaten simultaneously with their chrysanthemum salad, which is probably the best salad I’ve ever had. Easily one of the best dishes of the year (a salad!) – so good, we ordered a second.
The tonnato vitello was really nice and refreshing, made with spicy veal tartare and tuna carpaccio.
For pasta dishes, we first tried a special Sardinian dumpling in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with shaved white truffle.
Next up, caramelle.
These candy packages were a nice mix of sweet and savory. Beautiful too.
We also had their famous lasagne pinwheels. Also beautiful. And with such a thin noodle, they are actually light and delicious.
But the star of the show was the giant garganelli in broken meatball ragu. This was fucking incredible.
It reminded me of my grandma’s Sunday sauce, only with better quality homemade pasta. I crave this daily, and it is at the top of my list for best dishes I tried this year. We also ordered a second one of these since it was so incredible.
We also had the charred octopus. This was a small portion to share among six people, but it was indeed tasty.
The veal “da pepi” was like a Milanese chop. Very tasty and crisp.
Let down of the meal goes to the prime rib braciole.
It was somehow a bit dry, under cooked in parts (the center), and stringy in others (the outer edges). Bummer. I was really looking forward to this. The stuffing tasted like my dad’s stuffed cherry peppers, which was nice. 5/10.
We also had some sides: potatoes and polenta.
For dessert, we tried a bit of everything. The sgroppino was bright and acidic, the fior di latte mochi was unique and tasty, the tiramisu was perfect, and the honey zeppole were nice little versions of the fried belly bombs I loved as a kid.
This place is worth the struggle for a reservation. Get the salad, the garganelli, and the lasagne. You’ll be happy.
My wife and I tried this place today on the recommendation of a friend of mine who spoke highly of the prime rib.
I give this a solid 8/10. For $46 you also get two sides with it, and the slab of roasty, beefy goodness is very well portioned.
It had a nice cap, good flavor both on the crust and throughout, and they serve it with a great seasoning salt (tasted like a sweet but spicy old bay salt), horseradish cream sauce, and gravy in a tea kettle.
The item that stole the show for me though was this grilled artichoke appetizer that our really nice and helpful waitress Marissa recommended.
The halves were perfectly seasoned, steamed, grilled, and then hit with some finishing salt. Absolutely awesome.
They serve some good crafted cocktails, and the bar is impressive as well.
Little Frog is a new French bistro that just opened up a few months ago on East 86th street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. I came here with a bunch of food enthusiasts and bloggers for a press dinner. Here’s what we tried:
This flatbread comes nicely packaged and warm inside of a paper bag with the Little Frog logo stamped on it.
It may not strike you as a particularly French item, but lamb meatballs here are served with a dollop of labneh (a Lebanese style of cream cheese) and a host of Mediterranean spices, paying tribute to the old French colonies in North Africa, no doubt.
It’s tough to compete with Mom’s homemade meatballs, but these were tasty nonetheless.
Duck Liver Foie Gras:
Beautiful and delicious. Super smooth texture, nice and velvety. If you like this sort of thing, please get it. This was my favorite app.
Can’t go wrong here. The thick slices of tender, braised bacon sit on a bed of delicious lentils. This is a winner, so I shot it twice.
I’ve had more tender tentacle in my day, but that doesn’t mean that this was tough by any means. The dressing was perfect and the flavors really popped.
This is served with lemon sabayon and capers, but it sits on a bed of crispy quinoa that really adds an awesome textural element to the dish. It stands out as a really great app.
Beets & Kale:
This salad was simple and tasty. Far be it from me, the meat guy, to praise a salad, but this hit the spot after dipping into some of the more meaty apps earlier.
Okay now onward to the entrees. We started with this incredible duck flambe.
This is one of the better duck dishes I’ve had. The meat was super tender and tasty, and the skin remained crisp and flavorful, with all fat rendered out nicely.
The steak au poivre is a top sirloin cut that’s smothered with peppercorns and then topped with gravy. Ours was cooked to about medium, but it still remained very juicy from the gravy. Also, the tenderness of the cut surprised me; I’m usually apprehensive about top sirloin, but this was good stuff. 7/10.
The Coq Au Vin was a bit dry at the outer edges, but the tenderness and juiciness of the inner meat made up for it in spades.
A few of us claimed that this was the best entree of the night, though the others were ready to throw down in a pitched battle to defend the duck.
If you’re still hungry, get the ice cream sundae for multiple diners. It comes served in a massive bowl, complete with a lit sparkler shooting out the top. I took this shot after the sparkler was removed:
Filet Mignon: 9/10
Froggy Burger: So good!
Salmon Tartare: great crunch and texture from the crispy quinoa.