Chat with CEO of Carmine’s of New York, Jeffrey Bank.

Today I had the opportunity to meet the Chief Executive Officer of Alicart restaurant Group, Jeffrey Bank.  He’s in Washington, DC to oversee the opening of the new Carmine’s DC located at 425 7 Street NW in the Penn Quarter neighborhood. Everyone’s been chomping at the bit awaiting its opening. Today when I was there around 12 p.m. there were dozens of people standing around and peeking in the windows, which are now uncovered. They are in fact open this evening at 5 p.m. for dinner service.

I was excited to meet Mr. Bank but I didn’t know what to expect since I don’t spend that much time with New Yorkers but I really enjoyed speaking with him. He’s funny, witty, and he knows his stuff. Carmine’s is a big business. He said that last year, Carmine’s served over 800,00 meals and is the 2nd largest grossing independent restaurant group in the country.  This month Carmine’s is will celebrate its 20th year in business. The first to open was in New York City on the Upper West side.  Since in December 2004 Carmine’s opened at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City and in July of 2005 Carmine’s went international when it opened Carmine’s Atlantis at the Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Now Carmine’s can add the nation’s capital to it’s list of locations but do Washingtonians really know what to expect from a big New York family style restaurant?

Carmine's DC is Now Open!

Carmine's DC is Now Open!

Bank said, “Carmine’s is like going to an Italian wedding or to your Italian Grandmother’s house for supper. It’s a big feast!” He said that when diners come to Carmine’s the first thing the server asks is if they’ve ever dined at Carmine’s before — that they need to know what they’re getting into.  He added that Carmine’s is well known for what he calls, “the Wow! factor” — guests are surprised by the over-sized, very generous portions which are made to serve 4-6 people.  In addition, he said that, “everyone is treated like a VIP. Everything is made to order.”

So what’s on the menu? There are no daily specials. You aren’t handed a menu when you’re seated.  The gigantic menus are posted on the walls for all to see. Bank said, “the menu hasn’t changed in 20 years. We’re not big on creativity but we’re big on consistency. The food is the same in each location and with our enormous portions, it’s a tremendous value. A group of college kids could come here and share a salad, some pasta, and a dessert and split it and pay seven bucks. You can’t beat that — it’s an incredible value”. Even for lunch, Bank said that there are lunch sized portions and their hero sandwiches comes with a free salad. Bank also said that, “the DC prices are actually lower than the New York City restaurant menus.”

Bank said that, “the number two dish is the Chicken Parmigiana” he added, “there are many popular dishes … the Fried Calamari, Caesar Salad, Eggplant Parmigiana, Linguine with Clam Sauce, Rigatoni Country Style, Chicken Scarpariello, the 46 oz Porterhouse, and Chicken Contadina.”

The Executive Chef at the Carmine’s DC, Terry Natas has been with Carmine’s for 6 years. He started as an Executive Sous Chef at the Atlantic City, NJ restaurant and was eventually promoted to the Executive Chef at the Atlantic resort Carmine’s in the Bahamas. Bank laughs, “Yeah, poor kid.” Chef Terry also served at Virgil’s, their barbecue restaurant, which Banks said will open in the DC area in the next 6-7 months.

The new Carmine’s DC is housed in 20,000 square feet with 700 seats, a colossal 40 seat wrap-around bar, a 50 seat cocktail lounge, 3 separate dining areas thanks to movable walls and 6 private dining rooms all equipped with state of the art technology. For private dining rooms, there are no rental fees — everything is already there, another great value.

At the bar and lounge, there are purposely placed outlets for guests to plug in their laptops, netbooks, phone, iPods, you name it. Oh, and if you forget your charger, no problem — the bartender has extras to loan. It’s incredible! It’s better than Starbucks — and way more swank!

Chandelier donated to Carmine's by Doug Jemal

Bank said that they came to DC because they thought the “demographic in DC worked for them”. He added that Carmine’s is perfect for the student, the “little red hat club” (old ladies going to the theatre) (I couldn’t help but laugh when he’s describing this), lobbyists, tourists, and of course, businessmen. Yesterday, the Dictrict of Columbia Mayor, Mr. Adrian M. Fenty credits that the new restaurant will bring 200 new jobs to Washington DC in the Washington Post. Bank said that they signed a 25 year lease and they plan to be here a while.  Inside the DC location, there is the nostalgic signature Carmine’s décor with walls strewn with black and white photographs depicting Italian American families surrounded by hanging chandeliers. Bank said that there are two very special chandeliers and one very special photograph on the wall. Douglas Jemal, President of Douglas Development donated two antique chandeliers that are worth over $60,000 a piece. Bank said that only the DC location has them but joked that Mr. Jemal could donate them all of the restaurants if he wanted. In exchange for his generous offering, Doug has his photo on the wall in the bar lounge area.

Worried about trying to get a reservation? Don’t! Bank said that they only take reservations for half of the restaurant’s capacity so that there will be tables available for walk-ins. Pretty cool … is it possible to fill up all 700 seats? I think tonight they might be surprised! Go get em’ foodies!

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One Response

  1. […] when they’ll be showing SportsCenter and when they’ll be showing C-SPAN.  And Lisa at Dining in DC shared the news that bartenders may even be able to help folks whose phone batteries run down but who forgot their […]

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