New York’s storied family-style Italian spot is celebrating a successful first year in Las Vegas. While far from the Big Apple’s first purveyor of pasta, veal and the like to expand to the Strip [hello Rao’s!], Carmine’s has spared no time in carving out a niche for itself. American-style Italian, gargantuan portions and a price tag that higher-end hotspots would balk at have commanded a near-full dining room all year.
Many would immediately compare Carmine’s with Buca Di Beppo. On the surface it’s a fair statement, with both boasting enormous dining rooms [Carmine’s holds 800 people], too many photos to count [5,000], bright, family-friendly atmosphere [but you can avoid screaming kids] and portion sizes that make Hash House A Go-Go plates look like hors d’oeuvres [read: come with friends or a 3-foot doggie bag]. Carmine’s, however, holds a distinct East Coast feel, reflected by a robust flavor profile and of course owner Jeffrey Bank’s true New Yorker attitude […in a good way].
Cold Antipasto with shellfish and prosciutto, piles of crispy calamari, and a mountain of Caesar salad would be more than enough for a complete meal, but this just gets the party going. The Rigatoni with sausage and broccoli highlights the pasta selection with a bold and slightly tangy light cream sauce, while spaghetti and meatballs fits its classic namesake nicely. Meat lovers should certainly indulge in the porterhouse pizzaiola, which sports just about all the NY Strip and filet that a cow can carry, with large sums of heavy sausage to boot.
Save room for dessert, because the ‘Titanic’ wins the Oscar for best sweet on Carmine’s menu. Decadent flourless chocolate cake mimics fine dining quality [except it’s about 8x the size], topped with what seems to be an entire container of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and sliced fruit. The presentation allows this treat to live up to its title. The chocolate bread pudding is a crowd pleaser as well.
A lovely wine selection, innovative drink menu and friendly service round out a refreshing casual escapade on the Strip. You’re going to need a good-sized group to enjoy the full experience here, but’s certainly worth it when an entrée that feeds six is priced the same as a single piece of ravioli in higher-end places down the road. Carmine’s looks to continue its fun, low-key style for years to come.
Carmine’s is located in the Forum Shops of Caesar’s Palace. Open Sun – Thurs from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., and until midnight on Fri/Sat. Avg. out-the-door price is ~$35 – 45/person w/o drinks. (702) 473-9700 for reservations or find out more at Carmine’s online.