Paper Tiger – Hendricks Gin, Ginger Simple Syrup, Lime Juice, Yuzu Bitters, Magnolia Bitters, Butterfly Absinth Spritz, Fever Tree Ginger Beer, Maldon Sea Salt and an Edible Flower
Truth Lies Low – Don Pancho Rum, Contrato Bitters, Orgeat, Lime Juice, Pineapple Juice, Chinese Bitters and Cherry
Rosemary Focaccia with Salted Butter and Lardo
Cesare’s ‘Tuscan Fries’ – Porcini Bearnaise
Stracciatella – Prosciutto, Beets and Mint
Little Gem Salad – Guanciale, Gorgonzola and Apples
Duck Egg – Pork Belly, Frisee and Porcini Vinaigrette
Capellacci di Zucca – Marcona Almonds and Sage
Squacquerone Ravioli – Pancetta and Arugula
Beef Cheek Ravioli – Brown Butter and Aged Balsamic
Spaghetti Nero – Crab, Tomato and Caperberry
320 Day Dry-Aged New York Strip Riserva – Maldon Salt and California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
90 Day Dry-Aged Bone-In Ribeye – Maldon Salt and California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Lamb Chops ‘Scottadita’ – Maldon Sea Salt, Lemon Zest and Fresh Mint
Gnocchi – Gorgonzola, Figs, Arugula and Walnuts
Italian Broccoli – Garlic and Pork
Mascarpone & Guanciale Mashed Potatoes – Poached Egg
Fregula – Autumn Vegetables
Double La Colombe Espresso – Ice and Sweetener
Calexico – Avion Anejo Tequila, Borghetti Coffee Liqueur, Licor 43, Campari, Aztec Chocolate Bitter, Orange Bitters, Australian Bitters and Cinnamon
Pear Budino – Whiskey Butterscotch and Poached Pears
Bananas Foster Bomboloni – Fresh Bananas and Huckleberry Reduction
Chocolate Bacon Cake – Caramel Buttercream and Candied Bacon
Blood Orange Cheesecake – Toasted Almonds and Edible Flowers
Italian Butter Cookies – Raisins
Dressed in a festive spirit for Christmas weekend, even Bodacious the Bull getting in on the action, it was with three friends all marking their first visit that a Holiday feast was enjoyed at Carnevino, former Chef and now-head-of-everything-Batali-in-Las-Vegas Nicole Brisson arranging a menu and even taking some time out of her jammed-packed schedule to stop by and pay the table a visit.
Currently in laid-back mode for the slow season, a brief window for America’s best Steakhouse that will see them back at full capacity shortly after New Year’s Day, it was once again with service from Captain Andrew overseeing a large team that the four-course degustation unfolded, a few surprises offered along the way further cementing beliefs that there may be no other venue in the world doing this sort of volume with results consistently excellent.
Starting off with a few cocktails, Bartender David “Coop” Cooper taking some well-deserved time off but undoubtedly involved in such complex creations, it was with traditional Gougeres and the impeccable Bread service that an order of crispy Potato Wedges were presented, the gravy-boat of bloomy Béarnaise making one wonder why this combination had not been assembled prior and something to be filed away for all future visits.
Starting off slowly while trying to limit the warm Bread and Lardo, a task never accomplished in the past and again put on indefinite hold, course one started with stretchy Stracciatella with cracked Pepper alongside a Beet and Citrus Salad with Prosciutto, the Little Gem Lettuce from the Intuitive Forager also finding itself amidst Pork, Cheese and Fruit while a golden Duck Egg sat atop toasty Brioche with Maple Glazed Belly and bright Vinaigrette.
Ever underrated for the Pasta program, perhaps not as exciting as the city’s best Italian restaurants but never dull in the least, Mario’s famous Beef Cheek Ravioli proved every bit as good as previous visits while the housemade Black Spaghetti formed an al dente tangle beneath lump Crab and Caperberries, the off-menu Squacquerone Ravioli brightened with Lemon as the Capellacci di Zucca made its way down the hall from B&B Ristorante to rouse fond memories of the Pumpkin Lune at Babbo in Greenwich Village.
In some ways all a tease leading up to the big reveal, the tableside carving of Meats as much about educating as it is about the show, “Las Vegas’ #1 Steak” remains rich and tender in the form of a lightly crusted Bone-In Ribeye while Lamb from a farm doing what they do since the 1800s is as fatty as it is grassy, the nearly two-inch New York Strip Riserva that began dry-aging on 2/6/2016 a still-indescribable flavor with top notes of Truffle and a butter-knife soft texture.
Always a bit polarized by the sides at Carnevino, the willingness to eschew simple things like Macaroni and Cheese or a Baked Potato for more interesting farm-based ideas sometimes not fitting for the mixed company of less-traveled diners, the current offerings of Italian Broccoli with Pork and Garlic as well as the hearty Sardinian Pasta are more than worthwhile while a special request for Gnocchi to be served with this course saw tender Potato Dumplings almost as smooth as the Egg and Mascarpone Mash with Pork.
Never one to take a pass on Dessert, the work of Ashley Costa and her team always tailored to the season as well as the Italian Steakhouse concept, a significant upgrade now sees Carnevino using La Colombe instead of Lavazza for Coffee service, a double Espresso next to the spicy Calexico both perfect for ideas beautifying rustic, the Chocolate Bacon Cake far lighter than the ingredients would indicate while all three Fruit offerings approached their ideas by a different angle, the Bombolini stuffed to bursting with boozy Banana filling while Kerry Clasby’s Blood Oranges soaked a soft Ricotta Cheesecake that is a strong contender for best in its genre…but still not as delicious as the sticky-sweet Budino with warm Pears, a quenelle of Cream and Butterscotch.
FIVE STARS: Visiting the restaurant for the first time on a truly slow night, only perhaps 25% of the seats filled, Carnevino somehow managed to outperform its already strong reputation for both veterans and first timers, the quality of the product never in question while the lower volume made the service even more capable than ever to truly shine.
RECOMMENDED: Truth Lies Low, Cesare’s ‘Tuscan Fries’ with Porcini Béarnaise, Duck Egg, Beef Cheek Ravioli, 90 Day Dry-Aged Bone-In Ribeye, Fregula, Budino, Bomboloni.
TIP: Both the Cheesecake and Capellacci di Zucca were offered as off-menu items, though the latter can be ordered on the current B&B Ristorante menu.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.