Miami’s food scene is remarkably different than it was a year ago, and not just because we’re overcoming a pandemic. As our tropical tinseltown has lured plenty of snowbirds and Silicon Valley execs with its clear weather and lax regulations, it has brought their beloved dining concepts along with them. It’s hard to pick between the many new concepts popping up on and off the mainland, so let us help you out. Want a taste of how the other half lives, but still want to feel comfortable and at home? Somehow the newly opened Carbone has managed to hang in the balance of these two opposing poles—like a seductive, Italian magic trick.
The global restaurant brand’s fame precedes it, and with good reason. Carbone is more than just a Drake shout out or buzz-filled favorite, it actually lives up to the hype. Which is a lot more than you can say for many of Miami’s four-dollar-sign locales. Their fourth Carbone on the roster (Hong Kong, Las Vegas, NYC being the other three), this Miami Beach iteration hasn’t lost an ounce of the original’s allure. The same wonderfully knowledgeable service, elaborate decor, and Nona-inspired recipes take center stage–a huge marker of how Major Food Group has managed to preserve the essence of what jettisoned Carbone to the international food scene to begin with.
Walking into Carbone (at the former Upland space in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood), the trademark neon sign, welcoming hosts, and luscious greenery greet you upon entry. A sultry cocktail bar sends you straight to the swanky, Sinatra era of 1950s New York–a perfect dose of nostalgia to pair with Miami’s own Golden Age at about the same time. As guests sip on their expertly crafted Old Fashioneds and Manhattans while waiting for their seats, the multiple dining rooms are a-buzz with loose conversations that can only come from heavily poured wine and delicious food.
At Carbone, you’ll be dining among Miami’s finest, and eating until your heart’s content. Your eyes will be struck by the decadent decor, dangling chandeliers, and the maroon suits of its multiple floor captains waiting to assist your every need. But hints of a classic Italian-American restaurant can be found all around you: Soul classics oozing from the hi-fi, red and white checkered napkins in the bread baskets, and trays upon trays of seductive dessert options waiting for you to take your pick of one–or all.
Once you shake the feeling of being on some sort of film or television set, you’ll notice that everything at Carbone is a show-stopper–from the ornate interior to the oversized menu that instantly brings a child-like smile of delight to the diners’ faces. Everything about this might sound intimidating, but let me explain that once the sights have run their magic, it’s the food that reels you in with an approachable, friendly and almost familiar taste and smell.
After an in-depth menu explanation by your captain, comfort food arrives at your table right off the bat with freshly-baked bread, rosettes of spicy salami, pickled cauliflower and fresh Pecorino. We added the beef carpaccio to our first round of eats and were not disappointed. Then comes the third act (the very location being, of course, the first): their world-famous caesar salad made table-side is a crowd-favorite act within the performative world of Carbone’s Revue. And also insanely yummy.
Carbone has given us a new life rule we will always follow: If ever at an Italian restaurant, and asked whether you’d like to add a meatball to your order, always ALWAYS say yes. And order three. The blend of meats and spices, draped elegantly with a homemade red sauce is as comforting as comforting goes. And pair that with their most popular item, the spicy rigatoni, and you’ve got yourself a dream of a meal. Make sure you keep your bread with you as you’ll want to glide that fresh-baked goodness through that aforementioned, saucy heaven.
Just as you think you’ve had enough (and your stomach might be saying so), there’s no way we’ll let you leave Carbone without having tried some of their main dishes. Their veal parmesan is definitive of what the dish is meant to look, taste, smell, feel and even sound like. And the sole piccata, filleted and plated before your eyes floats on a cloud of lemon and caper-covered, seafood-y goodness. Notice how my word choice has deteriorated as I retell this experience to you? That’s because drool has currently taken over my keyboard.
If you think the indulgence stops at their savory dishes, you’re not only wrong–you’re downright crazy. After being presented with a tray of their multiple dessert options, it’s almost impossible to make a wrong decision. Their lemon-topped cheesecake is an ode to South Florida’s beloved key lime pie. The tiramisu is infused with citrus and chocolate. The carrot cake is heavily spiced with fresh ginger. And, our personal favorite, the chocolate cake is a gold leaf-topped marriage between hazelnut and high-quality chocolate.
In true Italian fashion, good hospitality has to have the last word. You might not have asked for it–or even thought you needed it–but a shot of homemade limoncello and Italian Rainbow cookies somehow creates the perfect digestif to end an even better meal. Everything at Carbone–from the boisterous dining room to the ecstacy-inducing food–feels entirely inspired by the final feast in Stanley Tucci’s 1996 film, The Big Night. The takeaway here is if you’re looking to go all-out for a meal, and want a dining experience to match it, there really is no better place to go than the hype-worthy New York transplant, Carbone.
Photos courtesy of Carbone.