Admittedly our city’s exposure to New York-style Italian food has been rather limited – Fat Angelo’s, Amaroni’s Little Italy and more recently, Mario Batali’s Lupa – but Carbone brings the true ‘bada bing’ to town. This is an extension of Mario Carbone’s New York restaurant and is run by the chef’s cousin, Louie Carbone. The clubby, leather and brass decked retro dining room comes straight out of a The Godfather’s set, with waiters decked out in pressed tuxedos. We felt almost compelled to slip a $100 to the maître d’ for a quiet corner table but thankfully we just had to ask.
Aside from the film set appeal, the Carbone experience is a love it or hate it deal. We have to wait for our service captain to tend to us, but the complimentary garlic bread, cheese and ham makes the wait palatable.
Our Caesar salad ($168) is perfectly tossed using gem lettuce, which has the crunch of romaine but a finer texture. The scampi ($358), however, is an anti-climax. There is little flesh on these spiny crustaceans and the sweetness is drowned out by the heavy pesto-based sauce. Although to Carbone’s credit the flesh is firm – a sign of fresh ingredients. The fettuccine funghi ($196) has a rich tomato and mushroom sauce, smothered over very thin pasta that lacks the al dente texture us Hongkongers like from their noodles.
Our mains improve the mood significantly. Mario’s meatballs ($168) are a fab deal with three large pork balls robustly flavoured with herbs and drizzled in a fresh tomato sauce. The veal parmesan ($428) reminds us why we love this American-Italian comfort dish, with its crispy breading and gooey cheese.
We’re almost afraid to attempt dessert after spying the Amazon-sized tiramisu ($108) on display, so we split a slice. Complete with a lady finger biscuit and layers of whipped mascarpone filling, it’s surprisingly less sweet and filling than expected.
New York-style Italian is not quite like most of the rustic Mediterranean cuisines available in our city. Carbone’s portions are generous, and the food on the whole is good. However, Carbone’s appeal is largely based on our nostalgia of Americana rather than an appreciation for fine Italian dining. Leslie Chan
Verdict: Go for the atmosphere and the meatballs
Carbone9/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St, Central, 2593 2593;carbone.com.hk.
9/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St, Central