Garlic Bread and Pizza Focaccia
Foie Gras Veneziana
Caesar alla ZZ
Tagliatelle with Shaved White Truffles
Spicy Rigatoni Vodka
Fettuccine con Funghi
Carrot Cake with Ginger Icing
Having watched Carbone open to gratuitous fanfare from more than a dozen writers and industry folks the New York import had knowingly comped, it was not until I was able to gather a group large enough to properly sample the pricey Aria restaurant that I hazard to make a reservation, the results of a nearly three-hour meal with six friends far less impressive than any of the ‘media’ will openly pronounce.
No doubt a splashy space, the original channeled for much of the lavish design and showy tableside service from Captains shining in red, Carbone is the brainchild of Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone and famous for high prices for traditional “red sauce” classics the Las Vegas iteration raises the stakes even higher than the Manhattan original, a $64 Veal Parm and $75 Lasagna a mere tip of the iceberg on a menu with prices not displayed out front.
Clearly trying to evoke an dining environment rare to be found in Las Vegas in the year 2015, entrance to Carbone begins at a podium of smiling young faces in front of a painting of Christopher Walken and with Rat Pack classics playing a bit too loudly overhead those with reservations are quickly whisked through an elegant lounge to one of three large rooms, the center featuring circular enclaves and several large tables with a central chandelier that speaks volumes about the restaurants intentions and unrepentant opulence.
Championing the slogan “every meal deserves a captain,” a concept is inherently flawed by tableside shows preventing him from appropriate steering the backstaff flow of traffic, it was nearly forty-five minutes holding enormous menus close like blankets that passed before orders were finally taken, and somehow avoiding to topple unused wine glasses while reaching for a complimentary selection of antipasti the first bites of the meal would actually prove to be some of the best and most interesting, the acid-splashed cauliflower simple yet refreshing while cured meat alongside three breads were all quite delicious, the saucy focaccia particularly quite addictive.
Breaking the menu down into four-courses, though presentations of five plates requiring a show saw things slightly more staggered, round one included nine baked clams in 3×3 preparation alongside two steaks of foie gras amidst onions plus sauteed peppers and although the former proved a bit unwieldy for sharing while the liver was unctuous and well portioned, all attention was drawn to the tableside preparation of ZZ’s Caesar’s, a $42 double-order highlighted by the buttery croutons and sardines that was otherwise quite standard.
Taking macaroni recommendations from a Public Relations executive and adding in personal preferences plus the anecdotal experience of others, course two featured four different pastas along with seven off-menu meatballs, only the $150 White Truffle Tagliatelle proving appropriately cooked al dente as thinner noodles bordered on ‘mushy,’ the meatballs no better or worse than would be expected for six dollars each…and certainly not enough to compensate for the uni-tinged Julian’s great flavor being marred by such a failure in execution.
Onward to entrees, the Chicken Scarpariello suggested by a local Italian restauanteur undoubtedly performing the best of any savory as spicy sausage provided a decadent nest for the juicy half-bird, those enticed by the famous fried Veal Chop will be happy to know that the $64 tab is mostly justified by both size and virtually perfect execution, the same not to be said of a $75 loaf of lasagna far too heavy handed with green peppers beneath a top that was actually too bitter to be enjoyable as a result of being burned.
Enjoying the company and conversation far more than the food as the clock inched toward ten it was finally with the dessert cart parked tableside that a concluding duo was selected and treated to fudgey Rainbow Cookies and complimentary Limoncello as we watched bananas flambeed tableside it was with good fortune that both the boozy fruit over ice cteam and curl of carrot cake succeeded where other plates had failed, each textbook in execution and large enough to share at comparative bargain of just fifteen dollars.
TWO AND A HALF STARS: Admittedly early in its Las Vegas lifespan and no doubt a place that will drum up tourist dollars and praise from the press to whom prices and service are tilted to please, Carbone offers a unique dinning experience compared to anything else currently on The Strip, yet failing in several basics of execution from kitchen to captain it simply is not nearly as great as it currently seems to believe.
RECOMMENDED: Carrot Cake, Pizza Focaccia, Foie Gras Veneziana, Chicken Scarpariello.
AVOID: Lasagna Verde, Easily overcooked pastas with thin noodles, missing the opportunity to order and ask questions when the Captain is present…unless you’re ready to wait.
TIP: Totaling $100/pp after tax and tip without the Truffle Pasta billed at $30 per gram (minimum of 5g,) those still curious enough to book a table are encouraged to gather a group since most portions are big enough to share and smaller portions cannot be accommodated even with advance notice.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.