When I was around 10 years old, I remember walking along W. 44th St. in New York City with my parents. We had just seen a show at the St. James Theater and were walking back towards Times Square. I remember the words ‘CARMINE’S’ written on a large awning and smelling the delicious food as we passed down the street. That memory has always stuck with me and each time I walk down W. 44th in NYC I always look for the ‘Carmine’s’ awning. Fast forward 23 years later and as I walked down 7th St. NW in Washington, DC I passed a familiar awning and sign for ‘Carmines’.
Could it be Fate? Or just Luck?
I honestly don’t know how a girl from NJ who was raised in an Italian family never ate at Carmine’s….but that was all about to change…..
Carmine’s very first location opened in 1990 at 2450 Broadway (Upper West Side) in Manhattan. Since its opening day Carmine’s has been known for its family style Southern Italian cuisine. Restaurateur Artie Cutler crafted the Carmine’s concept with a singular vision; bringing his guests “wow-factor” sized portions and making any meal feel like an Italian American wedding feast. At Carmine’s you will find huge platters of homestyle antipasto, pasta, decadent seafood or meat entrees, and of course homemade desserts. All of the dishes are meant to be shared amongst friends and family. Carmine’s wants every day to feel like a Sunday afternoon at your Nona’s.One of the main things you will notice when you walk into Carmine’s are the large Italian family portraits taken during America’s “Golden Age.” The decor is eclectic yet classic and reminds me of sitting at my Nona’s kitchen table while she prepared gravy in a big pot at the stove.
Carmine’s has grown substantially throughout the years, currently there are 6 Carmine’s; Atlantic City, NJ (Tropicana Casino and Resort) two in NYC (2450 Broadway and 200 W. 44th St), Paradise Island (Atlantis Resort), Washington DC (425 7th St. NW) and Las Vegas (The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace).
Artie Cutler dedicated his life to creating restaurants throughout Manhattan and the rest of the world. His endless efforts cemented his legacy, and without him Carmine’s would not exist. Today, The Alicart Restaurant Group, led by Artie’s wife, Alice, and CEO Jeffrey Bank, further that legacy through Carmine’s, as well as its sister restaurant, Virgil’s BBQ, which has locations in NYC and Atlantis!
My husband turned 37 years old earlier this week and I knew exactly where I wanted to take him, Carmines! I had heard many wonderful things about the restaurant from friends and knew that this would be the perfect time to go. We arrived out of the cold and into the warm, golden atmosphere of Carmine’s. Immediately upon entering Carmine’s, I felt a familiar sense of home. Large portraits of Italian families young and old lined the walls, varying types of lighting fixtures hung from the ceiling and big glass temperature controlled cabinets held rows upon rows of vintage wines. Ol’Blue Eyes crooned over the diners while we made our way to our table overlooking the busy sidewalk on 7th St. NW. Our waiter arrived and placed a basket full of hearty breads and a plate of olive oil in front of us. was kind and took the time to explain exactly how to order “it’s family style, so you share….a little bit of this, a little bit of that.” Being that it was just my husband and I and our two children, we decided on ordering just a few items off of the menu. My husband ordered the Penne ala Vodka- pasta in a creamy tomato and vodka sauce and I ordered the Chicken Scallopine-thin slices of chicken in a lemon and butter sauce with sautéed spinach. Our two children ordered off of the children’s menu; our son decided upon the Chicken Strips and our daughter ordered the Focaccia Bread Pizza.
When the food arrived we all gasped in delight, everything looked so delicious. I mean just look at these plates overflowing with food!
The combination of the Penne ala Vodka and Chicken Scallopine may sound strange but it was actually divine. The Penne was al dente and smothered in a thick and creamy traditional tomato Vodka sauce with huge bits of garlic throughout. The Chicken Scallopine was cooked to perfection and each chicken breast was pounded incredibly thin, smothered in a roasted garlic lemon-butter sauce and surrounded in delicious sauteed spinach. Nothing was bland or over-seasoned and everything tasted homemade. No surprise there, as each dish is made to order. My children both enjoyed their dishes-the Focaccia Pizza was fresh and drenched in delicious mozzarella cheese. The chicken strips were seasoned well and came with a side of savory marinara for dipping. Next up, dessert of course!
Since it was my husband’s birthday the wait staff lovingly brought out my husband’s dessert of choice; Tiramisu with lit candles and sang, “Happy Birthday from Carmines, Happy Birthday to you!” The Tiramisu like everything else at Carmine’s is huge and it comes loaded with huge chocolate shavings atop a mountain of whipped cream. My husband (who is a Tiramisu connoisseur) said that it is the “best Tiramisu he’s ever had!” The kids and I on the other hand, opted for the Chocolate Torte and it was the perfect size to split among the three of us (okay, my husband helped us a little) and we still went home with leftovers. The chocolate torte is flour-less, fudgy and decadent. It was so good in fact, I ate the last two pieces at home today (before anyone else could!).
With our bellies full and the night growing darker we bid farewell to Carmine’s. Our family agreed that we will definitely be coming back to Carmine’s again soon, but we all agreed that next time we will be bringing a larger group so we can taste more of the delicious items that Carmine’s has to offer.
Until next time, arrivederci!