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Carbone is designed as a tribute to 1950’s New York little Italy and is located on the 9th floor of LKF Tower. The dark blue walls, plush red curtains, rolling silver carts are a step back in time; the floor tiles were actually inspired by a scene in The Godfather. The music is a never-ending list of Motown favourites striking a balance between creating energy, yet still comfortable for conversation. The front room houses the cocktail bar with small tables, so if you’re with date this would be a good choice. The back room can be quite packed with both tables and people but this adds to the ambiance and energy of the scene.
There are a number of starters to choose from ranging from antipasti, to soups and salads. The Caesar alla ZZ, is perfect for sharing and prepared table side. The romaine is crisp and creamy coated in a zesty cheese dressing of ricotta salata. The baked clams come three ways, Oreganata crusted in breadcrumbs and oregano, Casino, a snap of bacon and chili, and our favourite Fantasia, topped with sea urchin and lemon which packed a bright and creamy bite.
The main dishes are a choice of pastas, fish and meats. The spicy rigatoni vodka is a highlight. It is a mixture of pasta, cream, chunky tomatoes, sweet onions, and a kick of chili, which even the non-spicy diners at the table loved. The pasta hit that definition of al dente so often talked about, so hard to deliver. The scallop livornese is a combination of olives, capers, onions and parsley with a hit of anise. For meat dishes the veal marsala was a real winner, a classic Italian-American dish combining mushrooms and a deep red Marsala wine sauce. The veal is succulent and medium rare and the mushrooms hold their bite and earthy rich flavour.
Potatoes Sergio is a side of mashed potatoes fried in patties with basil, tarragon and parsley. But for us, this was not as exciting, the potato patties felt dry and the flavours from the fried herbs didn't play through.
Definitely leave room for the desert cart. The carrot cake explained as Mario Carbone’s great great grandmothers recipe, is rich and moist and filled with dark molasses and ginger, topped with the classic cream cheese icing and a scoop of vanilla. The Lemon Cheesecake is a New York classic; refreshing bright lemon packed in three layers of a rich cream cheese.
The wine list for Carbone is of course is reflective of its concept, an array of award winning Italian and American wines. The Sommeliers are thoughtful in recommending their wine pairings. The Napa Valley Trefethen Chardonnay was a great suggestion for acidity and brightness and married perfectly against spicy pasta. The bar is a feature here so a 1930’s “Gin Sling” could be your thing: a refreshing blend of gin, lemon juice, cherry brandy, topped with soda water and a sprig of mint. The “Mai Tai” is a tall tropical rum drink with a fragrant peel of orange.
Behind the cast of characters is a staff that truly works as a team. They are friendly, knowledgeable, they know their dishes and are very accommodating. The staff seems to enjoy what they do, from belting out their rendition of happy birthday, to the occasional photo bombing; they strike that balance between being fun without being intrusive.
Dinner for two comprised of a starter, a salad, a pasta, a main, and two glasses of wine will cost about $2,300 and things work up from there. The waiters are helpful in assessing and creating half-orders when adding a third person. Bottles of wine start at about $750 and move up to fine premium selections for bigger budgets.