181 Thompson Street,
Rarely do you come across a buzzy, new restaurant that peddles in Veal Parmesan, Linguine with Clams, and Lobster Fra Diavolo. It sounds almost like a contradiction in terms, but Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi have made an art of Red Sauce Italian, and by doing so, have made Italian-American cooking hot.
Their newest venture, Carbone, is like something straight out of Little Italy… only with much better food. The servers that once rattled off specials in thick, Italian accents in eateries all over Little Italy are back to serve you here. They’ll tell you they can make you Lobster Fra Diavolo, Lobster Piccata, Steamed Lobster, or Lobster just about any way you like it. You’ll need weeks to conquer the vast menu, which you may want to consider attempting after you taste the Linguine Vongole (Clams). Talk about a killer dish! The linguine is cooked to al dente perfection and tossed with plenty of garlic, olive oil, herbs and white wine. Lest we forget the clams, which are a fantastic assortment of Montauk Littlenecks, Razor Clams, and Baby Clams from South Carolina — a textural playground for the tongue. Chefs Carbone and Torrisi also do justice to Veal Parmesan, which they serve on the bone. An extra thick cutlet, the veal itself is coated in breadcrumbs, smothered with a crazily addictive tomato sauce, and crowned with flash-fried basil leaves and fresh lobes of mozzarella.
There’s the more unusual dishes, like an Octopus Pizzaiolo, a combination more red sauce chefs should consider. The one here is abundant with moist, finely charred octopus and a vibrant sauce, made with fresh green chiles, garlic, onion, pimentos, and plenty of oregano. One of my favorite dishes is an antipasti called Posillipo Pan Roast, which is a delicious mess of clams and mussels, bathed in a red pepper and Worcestershire sauce so good it requires soaking up with bread. Save room for dessert because Carbone also makes a knockout Carrot Cake. In fact, I feel comfortable stating it’s the best damn Carrot Cake I’ve ever had. There’s a moist, rich Chocolate Blackout Cake that’s nearly as good.