Early Report: Vintage Italian-American at Carbone

With their fresh, respectful, and sometimes playful take on Italian-American food, the guys behind Torrisi Italian Specialties and Parm have made red sauce cool. Now they're taking it retro and upmarket at two-week-old Carbone. The idea, as Chef Mario Carbone describes it, is "midcentury Italian-American fine dining."

The first Chowhound dispatch suggests they've nailed it.

For jon, the don't-miss entrée is veal Parmesan in delicious tomato sauce with mozzarella and spicy breadcrumbs—a massive thing, big as a hubcap from a '58 Caddy ("as it should be at $50," he adds). Chicken cacciatore is half a bird in an earthy sauce with mushrooms. Pastas (listed under "macaroni" on the menu) are another strength, highlighted by spicy rigatoni vodka ("the best pasta à la vodka you will eat") and linguine with clams—South Carolina baby clams, razors, and Montauk littlenecks with sweet-onion soubise and house-dried oregano. The only disappointment, jon says, is the smallish portions: "for $25 or so a plate, they need to give you a bit more." If you've left room for dessert, try lemon ricotta cheesecake or a gorgeous carrot cake, crisp outside and moist inside.

Décor is dark and swanky—think Minetta Tavern or Strip House—befitting the former home of Rocco, a Village landmark that closed in 2011 and could be Carbone's spiritual forebear. "The food, scene, vibe are all great," jon says. "Try and go here."

Carbone [Greenwich Village]
181 Thompson Street (between Houston and Bleecker streets), Manhattan
212-254-3000

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Illustration from Carbone