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$55 for a veal parm? $21 for three meatballs? A meal at this old school Italian-American restaurant will definitely cost you a pretty penny!

Located in Greenwich Village, Carbone is brought to us by Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick from the Major Food Group company which also owns Dirty French, ZZ’s Clam Bar and the rapidly expanding Parm.

The interior

The interior

This red sauce restaurant opened up to significant fanfare last year – it even earned a Michelin star. It’s not a very big restaurant, so reservations are hard to come by. Dinner is near impossible during prime times but Mike and I lucked out with a Monday lunch reservation.

Everything about the restaurant has an old school Italian charm – from the décor to the 50’s music, the dishes and even the waiters who dressed the part in burgundy tuxes and slicked black hair. It’s like stepping back in time!

Giant menus!

Giant menus!

The first thing you’ll notice when you open the enormous (literally!) menu is the prices. Like I said, it ain’t cheap eating here. Antipasti dishes are around $20+, macaroni (aka pasta dishes) are in the $25-$30 range with secondi dishes (meat and fish) starting from $35.

After ordering, our server brought us several complimentary dishes to start our meal off with: Garlic Bread, Fresh Cheese (cut at the table with a pair of scissors) and Cured Meats. No complaints – this is my kinda meal. I had to hold myself back from eating too much… we had a lot more coming!

Complimentary antipasti

Complimentary antipasti

The first dish to arrive was the Spicy Rigatoni Vodka ($26) which they split into two plates for us (the photograph shows a half portion). If you’ve read any reviews of Carbone, you’ll know that this is the one dish you have to order. One bite into the pasta and I have to agree with the consensus – it’s an absolute must-order!

Sweet slices of onion mixed into a (slightly) spicy and creamy vodka sauce, tossed with al dente rigatoni noodles… My description doesn’t do it justice. You have to try it for yourself!

Spicy Rigatoni Vodka

Spicy Rigatoni Vodka (half portion)

Next up was Mario’s Meatballs ($21) which was categorized under the “lunch specials” section of the menu. With three meatballs in an order, it works out to $7 a meatball, so even though they’re quite large, it’s still pretty darn pricey.

Given their size, I was worried they’d be on the dense side but they were surprisingly soft and fluffy. With a bit of tomato sauce in each bite, you’ll definitely enjoy this dish. Mike and I would normally fight over the last meatball but as usual, we had ordered a little too much food.

Mario's Meatballs

Mario’s Meatballs

When I saw the $55 Veal Parm on the menu, I had to satisfy my curiousity. Could a veal parm ever be that good to justify that price?

It was certainly the most beautiful veal parm I’ve seen – a giant veal chop, served with the bone on the side, topped with melted slices of buffalo mozzarella and tomato sauce. After showing us the masterpiece, our server proceeded to cut it tableside with a pizza slicer.

Veal Parm

Veal Parm

So, did I enjoy it? Yes. Was it worth the steep price tag? No. While I’m glad I tried it, I couldn’t help but think about the spicy rigatoni we had eaten earlier. It was one of the best things I had eaten in a while… and I’ve eaten a lot of delicious things!

Veal Parm

Veal Parm

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal at Carbone. For the most part, it lived up to all the hype so if you can snag a reservation, definitely go for it. Just make sure you come with a full wallet and empty stomach!

At a glance:

  • Old school Italian-American restaurant from Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick
  • Located in Greenwich Village
  • One Michelin star
  • Difficult to get a dinner reservation; lunch is a better bet
  • Great meal but expect to spend a pretty penny (e.g. $21 for three meatballs, $55 for veal parm)
  • Must-order: spicy rigatoni vodka (lived up to all the hype!)

Ratings (out of 5):

  • Food: 4 stars
  • Service: 3.5 stars
  • Atmosphere: 3.5 stars

  1. I Just Want To Eat (Reply) on Monday 8, 2014

    Great review and photos. $55 for veal park: wow, that is expensive but would have been ok if it was exceptional and it seems it was not. I’ll follow your advice and try to go for lunch: these rigatoni look fantastic!