Walking inside Carbone’s brought forth a Bolsa Mercado flashback. Like Bolsa, the chalk board menu is limited during lunch, with the same sense of a mini grocery store slash deli vibe. Knowing almost absolutely nothing about this place caused a confused mess of emotions upon realizing Carbone’s is counter service.
Tipping while paying at the counter should be outlawed. This practice causes massive inside pre-tip pain. No one knows the service deal yet, so why the blank line?
My job is to stand in line, order, pay, feel pre-tip-pressure, grab a glass, make a drink, get a napkin, figure out which is a regular spoon, find a fork, and make it over to a table without dropping stuff, all the while wondering where my stick with a number attached to it is. Your job is to deliver food and bus the table. Someone should tip me. Really. Sincerely.
While standing in line, deciding which items did not include some kind of mysterious pork product, there were chef coats everywhere. One chef in particular was amazing in every way. As he investigated what would be needed to produce dining joy, he began a magnificent description of the tomato basil soup.
The base of this soup is celery and onion. This chef takes fresh tomatoes, as well as a few canned, and roasts them. His view is that roasting the tomatoes brings out a highly intense flavor. Pause. As he described the five to six heads of roasted garlic, also included, he appeared to break into a highly excited chef sweat.
Excitement arrived all because of the last part of this dish description. His voice changed while stating he uses a bag of basil with only a touch of cream. If you are looking for a chef that likes lots of cream in his tomato basil soup, keep walking. He likes it light. While the tomato basil soup is considered vegetarian, the escarole & white bean soup is prepared using chicken stock.
The chef’s first words of warning about the gruyere panini is that they use spicy peppers. There’s a kind of sweet & spicy taste that comes together with the gruyere cheese. He advised that this is it for the panini section unless you want “a plain old grilled cheese.”
It’s hard to talk about this particular panini. It need not be dipped in the tomato basil soup to become holy. No. This panini deal was sealed on its own. Simply add dipping to experience an almost painful pleasure. Gruyere, caramelized onions and roasted hot pepper are smooshed together with the most delicious tomato spread ever created. True story.
Baby lettuces join together with beets, Maytag blue cheese and apples to complete this salad win. If only I had only asked the chef to top it off with walnuts. As happiness kept hanging out, it seemed like something needed to go wrong. Robbery? Explosion? Fire? This is too good to be true.
There is no better ending to lunch than the four cheese eggplant parm hero. Please stop. Carbone’s will sub greens for those not into chips. Meat eaters stupendously rejoice! Other heroes on the lunch menu are meatball, Italian combo, roasted turkey, chicken parm and the always exciting house cured pancetta hero.
Carbone’s owner also owns Nonna. While the philosophy at Carbone’s is American Italian, it’s straight regional Italian at Nonna. Most importantly, during lunch on Fridays… Nonna has a lobster roll on the menu!! JOY TO THE WORLD.
Tuesday through Saturday is first come first serve, so there’s no need to make a reservation. Sandwiches are taken off the menu and different pastas are added. Don’t even think about sashaying into Carbone’s on a Sunday night without a reservation. They have a pre-fixe dinner that’s been sold out for the last 3 weeks.
There’s only love happening for Carbone’s. All that’s left is to count down the minutes until lunch begins at Nonna.
FIVE: High 5!
FOUR: Please & Thank You
TWO: Double Wow
ONE: Wow + Ouch = Wouch