Carbone is a funny Italian restaurant in NYC. No, it isn’t a comedy club. No, you won’t laugh at any clever menu item names. There are no real life Italian wise guys like from the Soprano’s serving you or dining next to you (at least from what I noticed). It is funny because if you walked by it and saw the poorly constructed half broken sign with a tall butler type bouncer ready to open the plain front door; you would think it is some sketchy grimy strip club. Well you would be wrong. Carbone is actually one of the most prestigious Italian restaurants in NYC, maybe even the country. It is an A-list celebrity hot spot that serves some of the best Italian food you will ever eat.
My girlfriend has wanted to eat here since as long as I’ve known her. Her birthday was a few weeks ago so this was the perfect time to splurge a little and do the whole fancy thing at Carbone. Don’t even consider eating here on a whim though. You’d need to be George Clooney or maybe his doppelganger with the same last name. Us normal people need to email them at exactly 9am (not 9:01am and DEF not 8:59am) exactly 30 days (not 29 or 31) in advance with a simple email stating your name, party size and requested reservation time. I did all of this and asked for a 7pm reservation on a Wednesday night and all they could do was 8pm. It is CRAZY how they handle reservations but SO WORTH IT once you’re devouring that spicy rigatoni vodka they offer.
Another point that should be made is that I had NO idea if I could eat here safely. I tried to research if they catered to gluten free eaters in a safe celiac friendly way but I found absolutely nothing online. I figured I would just have some sort of meat or something if needed. Thankfully, they provided an extremely pleasant gluten free eating experience.
Yea, you read that right. Perfect 10. I’ve never had better Italian food in my life. My girlfriend said the same thing, and she ate the normal gluten filled food.
We decided to share two appetizers. The captain (name for waiters here) informed me that a lot of things could be prepared gluten free and listed all of them. One of them was this prosciutto melon dish which was great. But the Holy Grail was the fried calamari. They use rice flour for this and claimed to cook it separately. It was by far THE BEST calamari I’ve ever tasted. It didn’t require any dipping sauces; they instead just poured some special oil over it. Not sure what that oil was but I wish I could have this dish every day. Other Italian restaurants are seriously doing things wrong.
We both had the spicy rigatoni vodka and I actually had to ask my waiter twice if mine was really gluten free. Her pasta looked identical to mine. I’ve never seen gluten free rigatoni pasta that looked this good. The only other places that prepare gf pasta this well is Bistango and Senza Gluten in NYC but even those two restaurants should take notes. Whatever they do to make that spicy vodka sauce must be replicated and sold everywhere. It was PHENOMENAL. Words seriously can’t describe how good it was. I wish reservations weren’t so hard to snag here otherwise I’d be back in an instant. For a high class Italian restaurant, the prices weren’t that much higher for the food than other lesser quality NYC restaurants. I never talk about price on this blog either, because I want this to be strictly regarding gluten free eating and nothing more, but must note that.
Ok, I’m going to break my rule again and talk about price. A bottle of wine here is, at minimum, $75.00 per bottle. Each glass is between $15-20 so a bottle made more sense for our drinking consumption habits. But holy crap, some bottles were in the $400s. This is when we knew we were dining at a true A-list celebrity hot spot. But the $80 bottle of wine that we got was fantastic. Some of the best wine I’ve ever had dining out. The other cocktails looked good too but the wine is part of the whole experience at Carbone.
These guys are straight off the boat Italians. The service is outstanding here, some of the best service in the restaurant game. The waiter went over every single menu item that could be prepared gluten free and why it could be prepared gluten free. There were a lot. They want to help you in every way they can too. But the trust factor is questionable because I know this is more of a “snobby” high quality restaurant then just plain old high quality. That might sound weird but the way they handle reservations is what makes me think this way. Are they telling me what I want to hear? Does the kitchen truly care? Those things will definitely run through your head too while asking questions and ordering your food. Or maybe this is just me being insecure knowing I am not an A-lister celebrity at an A-lister celebrity restaurant? Either way, that is why I docked them from a 10 to a 9.0 so take this deduction with a grain of salt.
Menu Honesty (N/A)
There is no mention of gluten free on the menu in anyway shape or form. Not even a disclaimer/note telling you to inform your server of any allergies. This menu feels like it has history though and is way too elegant to have anything like allergy notes clutter it up. Is that snobby? Maybe. But when in Rome I guess right? Based on the captain’s information he provided, I’d say about 70-80% of the menu is already gluten free or can be made gluten free. So just make sure you speak up and you will be just fine.
Did I Get Sick (NO)
No sickness here. I wish I brought my Nima but sadly I didn’t. Relied on the good old fashioned gut test here and I can happily tell you that all systems were clear. The pasta was so good though that I would have sacrificed a few days of pain to enjoy it. Luckily, that wasn’t necessary.
This 9.7 is extremely well deserved. Bistango is the only other restaurant that has scored higher thus far but the food and drink quality at Carbone is vastly superior. I also feel much more comfortable eating gluten free at Bistango as a sufferer of celiac. But Carbone is an incredible gluten free dining experience that is worth the money and the reservation hassle. If it means anything, this was hands down the best Italian food that I’ve ever eaten. My non gluten free girlfriend made the same conclusion.