The bill isn’t for the faint of heart, but for a lively Italian dinner featuring some of the best pastas in the city, Major Food Group‘s Carbone is still worth it. Unless you know Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, or Jeff Zalaznick personally, or are an A-lister, a prime time weekend reservation will elude you. If you send Carbone an e-mail exactly at 10am, one month in advance, though, us common folk can snag a 9:30pm, as I have several times now.
I like to describe Carbone as a caricature of an Italian restaurant, with its (bright red) tuxedoed servers and blaring Frankie Valli soundtrack, but with Spicy Rigatoni Vodka (and several other dishes) that will blow your mind. The spicy rigatoni is my favorite pasta in New York City, but the Lobster Ravioli is a up there as well. For you carnivores, the $64 price tag on the Veal Parmesan is not a misprint, and is also pretty spectacular.
Those tuxedoed servers do a wonderful job arranging the meal, recommending exactly the order of the dishes and offering to prepare half orders of dishes of which everyone wants a taste (e.g. that famous spicy rigatoni). My only real complaint of Carbone is that the wine menu is not particularly accessible at lower price points, though there are great options for oenophiles as you work your way into more expensive bottles, and the sommelier has always been courteous and helpful.
I’ve finished each of my meals at Carbone with a gargantuan slice of carrot cake and an espresso. Every time I contemplate trying one of the other delicious looking desserts, I can’t bear the thought of the FOMO (fear of missing out) I might experience if I don’t stick to the carrot cake, but one of these days I’ll drum up the courage.