As we are reaching the age of essentially not caring about New Years Eve, we decided to go out and have a nice dinner with friends instead. Since there were eight of us, Carmine’s was an optimal venue for group dining.
When Rachel and I walked in, we could not believe how massive the space was. At 20,000 square feet with seating for 700 patrons, it was arguably one of the biggest restaurants we have ever stepped foot in.
Like similar Italian restaurants such as Maggiano’s and Buca di Beppo, all of the dishes are family style and easily feed a table of six, if not more. Paper menus aren’t used, but instead, are found all over the walls inside Carmine’s.
We started the evening off with an order of fried calamari as well as fried zucchini. We still had enough time to make some New Years resolutions, so we might as well take advantage of the remaining hours of 2010!
When the zucchini arrived, I could not believe my eyes. It was literally a mountain of zucchini standing at least eight inches tall. When we ordered it, we thought it would be more along the lines of fried zucchini spears rather than straws, but it was addictive nonetheless. I had to move the plate to the other side of the table so I could save some room for the rest of the meal.
The calamari was good but the restaurant should have provided a larger bowl of marinara sauce than the one the dish came with. Given the sheer size of the portion and the number of people sitting at the table, that appetizer is going to require a larger serving of marinara.
Of course, one cannot dine at a family style Italian restaurant and not order spaghetti and meatballs. Sometimes the simplest dishes are the best, and I thought the meatballs, which were the size of snowballs, were delicious. The rich, thick but not-too-thick tomato sauce made it that much better.
Meanwhile, the chicken parmesan was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn’t the chicken I necessarily had a problem with, but more with the cheese draped on top. It just had this very odd texture that detracted from the overall taste of this classic Italian dish. Surprising since it is such a simple recipe to begin with.
And as much as we love carbs and cheese, we also ordered a side of cooked spinach as a side item. If you are a fan of garlic, then you will love the spinach. It was definitely oily, but I guess that is to be expected.
Between all of the dishes, as well as some drinks and a bottle of wine, the damage was rather reasonable as each couple paid a little over $60 including tip. Not too shabby considering the mounds of food scattered all over the table.