If you are Italian I am sure you can remember Sunday dinner at Nona’s house. Nothing says family like gathering around the table for a meal that would last for hours, truly an Above the Dish experience. You would begin to eat Nona’s dinner starting in the early afternoon and the food would just continue to come until late evening. The jug of Chianti wine just kept flowing and it just made the food taste that much better. If you were like my Italian family you would start that great Sunday meal with a nice antipasti. Nona would bring out that plate of cheeses and cured meats along with the roasted peppers, an assortment of olives and other pickled vegetables. With the antipasti came the warm homemade Italian breads and an array of different olive oils from both northern and southern Italy. After a few hours of enjoying the antipasti along with gallons of wine and a great time with family, Nona would serve the primo piatto that would consist of pasta. Nona’s homemade pasta was topped with a great thick red sauce and various meats in the sauce, and of course there would be more wine. After the primo piatto, Nona would serve the main dish, this was a large plate of various grilled meats and grilled chicken. Served with that main dish was a variety of side dishes such as roasted potatoes, broccoli rape and a nice fresh salad with tomatoes grown in Nona’s garden. More wine was served until the dessert came. The dessert was typically fresh fruit served with pastries. Espresso topped off the meal that was served with a nice shot of Sambuca.
Well, as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end and for me the Sunday dinner with my large Italian family is but a distant memory but for those of us yearning for the memory of Sunday’s pasted, a visit to Carmine’s brings back those Sunday dinners. Although Carmine’s is now a chain, it still has that family owned and operated feel that brings back memories of Nona’s Sunday dinner.
The original Carmine’s located on the Upper West Side was opened in 1990 and has been pleasing patrons ever since with its family style Southern Italian cooking. The very festive atmosphere brings one back to Nona’s family table where the food was never ending and where Italian families enjoyed spending hours eating and being with family. The décor at Carmine’s has the feel of a comfortable Italian home and brings back memories of Nona’s house. Black and white photos of Italian-Americans from the twenties through the forties cover the walls, dark wood paneling and antique-style hanging brass chandeliers add charisma to the warm interior.
Carmines is not for those who enjoy dining alone, this is a place for large groups and a place for family and friends. Most tables can accommodate parties of a dozen or more and this makes sense since sharing the overflowing plates of food is a must. The crowds at Carmine’s are there to have a good time and the sound level is very loud so if you are looking for a nice quiet dinner, this is not the place for you.
The food at Carmine’s is basic home cooked Italian and the big draw is the zesty old-fashioned red-sauce that covers many dishes. Some excellent choices include a multi-layered brick of eggplant parmigiana; egg-battered vegetables enlivened with mozzarella and Romano cheeses and spaghetti and meatballs made of tender ground beef and veal that are the size of large baseballs. The food at Carmine’s is not innovative or fancy, but that’s point—just like Nona use to make for those amazing Sunday family dinners.
Menu: Homestyle Italian
Atmosphere: Homey old-world comfortable feel. Bustling restaurant with enormous portions of traditional Italian dishes served family style.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11:30am-11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11:30am to Midnight
Recommended Dishes: Stuffed mushrooms, $18.95; ravioli, $30.95; shrimp scampi, $38.95
Prices: Apps, $11-$26; salads, $10-$12; pasta, $18 and up; entrees, $19 and up; sides, $6-$8; at lunch all dishes run from $6-$19.
Drinks: Respectable cocktails and modest wine list of mainly Italian wines that run from $15 to $80.
Specs: Street parking during the week; local parking lots available; fully wheelchair accessible.
2450 Broadway, New York, NY; 212-362-2200; carminesnyc.com