I’ve wanted to go to Carbone for a long time, especially after seeing Insta after Insta of its famous spicy rigatoni vodka pasta. There was only one problem — getting a reservation.
Acquiring a reservation at Carbone requires some diligence and luck. They are usually booked for a week or two in advance, and their spacing can get tight. You can’t make reservations over the phone. You have to email them, and then a separate group of reservationists responds with any potential openings. Upon their reservation offer, they send you a link to a portal to input credit card information, so that if you miss your reservation or cancel it too late, they charge a whopping $50 per person or so. After all is said and done, you have obtained your reservation at Carbone.
Carbone is excellent for a high-scale NYC Italian dining experience. It’s comfortable and classy, and they play Frank Sinatra hits all throughout. The waiters are pleasant and intriguing, and the atmosphere gives a true NYC feel.
The restaurant seems to be divided into a couple of rooms, but it’s not an enormous place. There is nice dim lighting, where at one point throughout dinner, they dimmed the lights even further.
The most comical part is the sheer size of the menu. The menu itself is GIGANTIC, but there really aren’t that many options. The menu has a very nice cover design of the front of the restaurant.
According to everyone on Earth, some key dishes at Carbone are the spicy rigatoni with vodka sauce, the veal parmigiana, and the meatballs. I also heard that their baked clams are very good, amongst some other dishes.
As you sit, they bring out a bread basket, some cauliflower in olive oil, and some spicy salami (pepperoni, perhaps). The waiter also brings a giant wheel of parmigiana cheese, and gives you a nice rugged chunk. It’s a very nice authentic starter.
The spicy rigatoni was brought out first, along with the meatballs. The portions are not huge, so they definitely emphasize quality over quantity. The presentation of the spicy rigatoni is extraordinarily simple, yet very pleasant and attractive. I was a bit concerned if this was just another hyped popular dish, but upon my first bite, I realized that the hype is real.
The spicy rigatoni pasta has just the right amount of creaminess, tanginess, spiciness, and sweetness. It is rich and fulfilling, but not overwhelming. It feels real and authentic, and makes you enjoy every bite. The meatball in itself was phenomenally tender, and the sauce was great enough to eat by itself. It was clear that the dishes were prepared carefully and with tremendous thought and preparation, despite their simplicity. The perfecting of the recipes are noticeable.
The veal parmigiana was also wonderful, but unfortunately, I was already extremely full at this point. I typically don’t eat veal, so I was a bit reluctant, but I had faith in the quality and flavor. It was definitely prepared very well, but I would’ve likely enjoyed it more if I wasn’t so full.
I’m not sure if my favorite dish was the rigatoni or the meatballs, since they are quite different. However, I think the meatballs hands down were exceptional, so I may have to lean towards that. Nonetheless, these are two dishes that cannot be ignored.
I would definitely come back to Carbone for a nice dinner one evening (if I knew about that dinner in advance enough to get a reservation). It’s definitely worth the experience. The sort of quality and passion found at Carbone is what helps make NYC the greatest city in the world.