Carbone, despite its proximity to my apartment, is the antithesis of a neighborhood restaurant. It’s expensive, exclusive and reservations are hard to come by. But now with the pandemic, it’s become a lot more accessible. Reservations are easier to get now that they’ve expanded their outdoor dining areas to include the sidewalk near Sadelle’s. It used to be the case that you’d open Resy and hope that you’d get off the waitlist for a certain day you wanted, but now when I look at the app, I can usually see availability on any day I’m interested in. And obviously, since it is winter, they’re wide open. Now’s the time to make this the neighborhood spot, if I didn’t care about my wallet or my waistline.
The heat lamp game is pretty strong at Carbone, but when it’s cold it’s cold. Somehow though, the experience at Carbone on a chilly day still makes for a special meal. I like how the waiters now focus on being congenial, vs. playing up this weird aggressive Italiano server persona that was the case precovid. The food also holds up well in the cold–those meatballs and carbs somehow retain their flavors and temperatures. And because it is cold, these are exactly the kinds of things you want to eat. Vodka rigatoni is the only winter coat you will need.
One of my favorite experience at Carbone was watching the servers make the caesar salad tableside. The way they grated the cheese with such flair and dramatically tossed the greens was comical. But you had to admit after all that that it was one of the best caesar salads you ever had. The curtains are drawn on the live caesar salad show, but even with the lights out the salad is still very good.
Our go-to order at Carbone is normally the caesar salad, the spicy rigatoni vodka and veal parmesan. But that can be a lot, especially concluding with the enormous veal parmesan. Carbone also gives you these amazing complimentary appetizers in the beginning that you can’t say no to, especially the addicting grandma pie, so the real estate in your stomach dwindles. You might consider just skipping the secondi altogether, especially if the carrot cake dessert is necessary, which it usually is. Or you might consider downgrading to a smaller secondi dish like the pork chop and peppers, which you can’t go wrong with. Carbone is a neighborhood restaurant now, so you can easily come on another day to try the dish you didn’t have room for the week before.
181 Thompson St (between Houston St and Bleecker St)
New York, NY 10012
*Outdoor seating now extended to Sadelle’s sidewalk at W. Broadway between Prince and Houston St