Carmine’s: Big Can Be Beautiful

Written by Anita

October 11, 2010

Make no mistake, Carmine’s is big—from its 20,000 square feet of interior space and nine private dining rooms to the billboard size menu boards that grace every room. Nostalgic black-and-white family photos and mismatched chandeliers give the space a classic Italian joint vibe. Sinatra tunes waft over the din of the boisterous crowd.

With other locations in the Big Apple (of course!), the Bahamas, and Atlantic City, Carmine’s offers diners super-sized family-style portions of Italian-American fare at affordable prices. Start your meal with a classic cocktail or a big goblet of white sangria, garnished with a giant slice of fresh cantaloupe and brimming with citrus and basil flavor. Or order a bottle or magnum of Carmine’s own-label Italian red (Monte Pulciano d’Abruzzo) or white (Trebbiano d’Abruzzo) wine. Salute!

Then it’s time to get down to business: ordering can be an exercise in diplomacy since dinner portions here serves 4-6 people (don’t believe the take-out menu’s 2-4 person guideline.) Or order with abandon (you can at these prices) and send everyone home with a few days’ worth of leftovers.

Salads are a good place to start. Carmine’s signature salad tosses a blend of lettuces with chopped genoa salami and mortadella, green and black olives, romano and provolone cheeses, red onion, cucumbers, pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, roma tomatoes, radishes, and a zesty red wine vinaigrette (whew!). One can’t-miss item—the eggplant parmigiana. Forget what passes for this Italian menu staple in other restaurants; Carmine’s is the real deal. Shaped like a big loaf of bread and sliced vertically, it layers wafer thin slices of breaded eggplant and a hint of marinara sauce (made in house from scratch) and is topped with a thin sheet of melted mozzarella. We also savored the hearty rigatoni country style—crumbled sausage, broccoli, white cannellini beans, proscuitto, and onions mixed with fat rigatoni tubes and bathed in a fragrant sauce of olive oil, butter, and chicken broth. Those with food allergies/dietary restrictions don’t have to be left out of the fun either. Carmine’s offers special menus for those with wheat/gluten or dairy allergies, vegetarian or vegan tastes, or even an aversion to garlic.

If you somehow manage to save room for dessert, the aptly-name Titanic (or its smaller sibling, the Tugboat) looked like an ice-cream sundae lover's dream. We opted instead for the homey warm bittersweet chocolate bread pudding studded with plump golden raisins and sprinkled with powdered sugar. But after just a couple of bites, we had to admit defeat!

Looking for a big deal? Then stop by Carmine’s After Work Happy Hour (featured on GregsListDC!) where you can nibble on oversized meatball “sliders” or crispy fried zucchini straws ($4 each) while sipping $5 house wines, Peroni beers, or select signature cocktails.

Want to be a hero at your next party? Then have Carmine’s cater it with giant party trays of Italian go-to items like lasagna and baked ziti or have it dish up a super-sized party hero, piled high with your favorite meats and cheeses.

Want to make it big in the kitchen? Then pick up a copy of the Carmine’s Family-Style Cookbook, which includes over 100 recipes for some of Carmine’s best sellers (including that to-die-for eggplant parm!) or check out a free preview here.

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