One of the beautiful things about Carmine’s is that despite the fact that they do take reservations, they will not book their tables completely, leaving room open for walk-ins. So, if they’ve told you they are booked until a later time, it doesn’t hurt to call back when you’re ready to eat to find out what the wait in the lounge is like. For my father and I, the next call proved successful, with only a 5 minute wait.
Once at the table, don’t look for your menu, it’s not coming. Instead, look up – the menu is posted around the restaurant on large boards on the walls. Though sometimes you cannot see it from your seat, it’s totally acceptable to get up and stand underneath one.
According to their website, Carmine’s founder wanted the experience to be like that of an Italian wedding, with large portions of food being shared across the table. That has certainly been achieved here. To start we ordered the Zuppa di Mussels, which may have included the freshest mussels I’ve had in my life, and the broth of which was life changing. It was so good that dad brought it home, yes just the broth, to dip bread in later. The waiter had told me this was a small starter, only about 14 mussels. While this was not at all true, it was also not completely filling.
Upon my father’s request, our waiter informed us that the Chicken Parmesan is the restaurant’s most popular dish. Not an Italian dish that my family is particularly fond of, we went with the Penne alla Vodka, the restaurant’s second most popular dish. This too was extremely large, and extremely tasty. It’s funny how such a simple dish can be one that is so hard to perfect. Vodka sauce, one of the most commonly ordered, really is not all that good in many places…it just isn’t. At Carmine’s, it’s amazing.
Our waiter’s favorite dish is the Monday night Fish Special, which he said with such passion I have to assume it’s really done something for him, and intend to go back on a Monday specifically for this treat.
While I’m sure their desserts are great too, I just couldn’t do it. Too full.
200 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036-3906