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Dining in DC to host DC Food Blogger Happy Hour at Carmine’s DC.

Are you hungry? Good … join me at the next DC Food Blogger Happy Hour which will be held on Wednesday, October 6th at the new Carmine’s DC. If you haven’t been there then you’ll be shocked by the enormous space. Carmine’s DC is the largest restaurant in Washington, DC with more than 20,000 square feet and 700 seats. We will be in a private dining room and who knows maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of a high profile person sneaking in through the “secret service” entrance.

What: Special invitation to DC Food Bloggers and guests. Food will be provided graciously by Carmines. Come hungry! Their food is worth waiting for.

Note: An earlier post reported in error that complementary drinks would also be provided.  This is not correct.  Beer, wine, and specialty drinks will be available for purchase at the bar.

When: Wednesday, October 6th 6-8 p.m.

Come meet, mingle, and chat with fellow food bloggers. Whether you’re a regular DCFBHH attendee or you’re interested in putting a face to a name for some of your favorite local food bloggers, come hang with us. I will be serving as the “Hostess” with the Mostest this month, so please come say hello.

Also, now the DC food bloggers have a new Facebook fan page, a virtual space to hang out, converse, and get to know each other. If you are a food blogger (or a food lover) feel free to “become a fan.” We’ll be posting future events via Facebook, so it’s a great way to keep up on what’s going on. If you plan on attending, please RSVP to the DC Food Blogger Facebook page.

Hope to see you there! If you plan to attend, if you plan on attending, please RSVP to the DC Food Blogger Facebook page. Thanks! See you there! And feel free to repost this flyer on your blog to spread the word.

For more info: Carmine’s Website for more information. Carmine’s DC:425 7th Street NW (Penn Quarter metro)
Map/Directions : Google
Telephone: 202.737.7770

More New York restaurants coming to DC.

Photo courtesy of Ronald C Saari.

Today in the Washington Post Business section, Danielle Douglas reported that P.J. Clarke’s, a New York icon is looking to take over the space formerly occupied by Todd English’s Olives at 16th and K St. NW. Washingtonian Mad Men fans are going to be the first ones to celebrate. P.J. Clarke’s has been open in New York over a hundred years old, frequented by Frank Sinatra but is best known for it’s tasty burger.

In addition, Bobby Flay, a popular Food Network star plans to open his first DC outpost of his Burger Palace based in New York and New Jersey. Are we recognizing a theme here? More burgers?! With the recent opening of Spike Mendelsohn’s Good Stuff Eatery, I don’t think DC is hurting for burger joints. Just sayin’.

We’ve already heard the news about Shake Shack owner Danny Meyer coming to Dupont Circle. That news rocked the foodie waves for a couple of days. The DC outpost will occupy the former Fuddruckers location at 1216 18th ST. NW, a crowded area that already houses Public Bar, Fly Lounge and Nando’s. Evidently, there is no firm opening date yet, but the Union Square Hospitality Group, the Shake Shack’s parent company, is aiming for sometime in the first half of 2011.

With the recent opening of Carmine’s and Kellari Taverna last year looks like DC is going to become the New New York. What say you, DC?

Carmine’s DC packs the house and stuffs the belly. Great for groups and family fun.

Carmine's Exterior. View from street.

Carmine's Exterior.

The new Carmine’s DC, a New York outpost of the famous family-style restaurant is doing what they set out to do — pack the house and stuff the belly. The largest restaurant in Washington, DC with more than 20,000 square feet and 700 seats, Carmine’s has managed to draw thousands within days of opening. In fact, according to Jill Collins, who is managing their public relations effort in DC said, “Carmine’s did 1,000 covers on its first Friday of business -and it had been open only 3 days.” With their enormous portions, (each dish designed to serve 4-6 adults), it’s impossible to leave there without being completely full to the brim.

Carmine's Family-Style Menu.

I was there for their opening on Tuesday, August 3rd and to interview Alicart restaurant group CEO, Jeffrey Bank but this past Friday night was my first time ever trying Carmine’s famous cuisine. I had relatively high expectations, since I had heard good things but was somewhat skeptical. What is so remarkable, especially for a restaurant its size is that their sauces and pasta are made from scratch daily and every dish is made to order.

What is also quite impressive is that Carmine’s has a special “menu” that provides recommendations of dishes for those with dietary restrictions, vegetarian, vegan, or have food allergies, including gluten. This is not yet available on the website; however, it may be added in the future.

Eggplant Parm

Part of the decor, yet is also functional is the enormous menus that hang on the wall in prominent places throughout the restaurant (see photo on left).  Bank said, “There are no daily specials at Carmine’s. 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. With our enormous portions — it’s a tremendous value.”  Bank added, “There are many popular dishes, such as the Fried Calamari, Caesar Salad, Eggplant Parmigiana, Linguine with Clam Sauce, Rigatoni Country Style, Chicken Scarpariello, the 46 oz Porterhouse, and Chicken Contadina.”

Chicken Saltimbocca

With a group of 6 adults, we ordered two appetizers, three entrees, and two desserts. For the first course, we ordered their famous Cesar salad and the Eggplant Parmigiana. Yes, it’s true that I don’t like eggplant but I have heard so many good things about Carmine’s Eggplant Parm that I decided to try it. Quite to my surprise, I loved it and thought that it didn’t even taste like eggplant. The tomato sauce was tangy, just the way that I like it. Also, I could see why people rave about their Cesar salad and why it has been one of their top sellers since the first Carmine’s opened in 1990.

The Cesar dressing is thick, creamy, and has just enough anchovy to taste the way a good Cesar dressing should. The recipe in the Carmine’s cookbook, which Bank graciously gave to me when I met him on opening day, calls for anchovy fillets, garlic, egg yolk, red wine vinegar, lemon, and spices. I’d love to know how much Romaine lettuce Carmine’s goes through in a day! They probably could set a Guinness Book World Record for the amount used per year. We had only Cesar salad leftovers. We scarfed down the Eggplant parm. I think we would have finished off the salad also but I think people were saving room for the next course. Rightfully so! These portions are huge!

Server holding Lasagne.

We ordered three entrees, the traditional Lasagne, Chicken Saltimbocca, and the Seafood pasta with red sauce. The lasagne was enormous (see photo below which gives you an idea of the scale). After trying a couple of dishes with Carmine’s marinara sauce, I knew that I would like the lasagne. It was hearty with a meat sauce and thankfully not too much ricotta cheese.

Of the three entrees that I tried, the Chicken Saltimbocca was my favorite. The chicken is pounded flat, with prosciutto, and fresh sage leaves, dredged in flour, and then sauteed. It is served on a bed of spinach with a white wine sauce and melted mozzarella on top. The seafood pasta was a huge portion as well. It was chock full o’ seafood pieces such as lobster, calamari, mussels, clams, and jumbo shrimp. The pasta in the red sauce was delicious but I had a hard time eating the seafood, especially the lobster pieces which were often mostly shell. We had a lot of leftovers of this pasta and since my husband couldn’t join us for dinner, I brought it home to him. He loved it. I wasn’t surprised since he enjoys more hearty seafood fishes than I. He has eaten the pasta for two meals and we still have more left in the fridge.

Bill being serenaded for his Birthday.

For dessert, we ordered the Tiramisu and the Strawberry shortcake. One of our guests, Bill was celebrating his birthday so they brought out the Tiramisu, which was as large as a pie, with a candle on it. In addition, one of the staff song Happy Birthday to Bill beautifully. The entire restaurant cheered and clapped. The Tiramisu which means, “pick me up” in Italian was delicious. It tasted like creamy chocolate custard. Carmine’s uses super-rich Mascarpone as well as whipped cream and then tops it all with large chocolate shavings. I didn’t taste the espresso coffee flavors at all (which I don’t really like anyways).

The enormous strawberry shortcake was like a huge mountain of cream with strawberries decorated the way a Christmas Tree would with a stand of pound cake. It was difficult to serve but it was delicious. It was as large as my head!

Me holding the Strawberry Shortcake.

My only complaint is that the servers serve you and it takes too long. I would prefer to serve myself so I can put what I want and the right amount on my plate.

Bottom line: Carmine’s serves great food and makes dining in groups a lot of fun. The value for the amount of food that you get is unmatched. The decor is rustic and the photos on the walls makes you feel like your at Grandma’s house eating at your Nonna’s dinner table.

For more info: Carmine’s Website for reservations and more information. Carmine’s DC:425 7th Street NW (Penn Quarter metro)
Map/Directions : Google
Telephone: 202.737.7770

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!

Carmine’s New York family style restaurant opens in DC tomorrow.

Posted on Examiner.com:

Carmine's DC

The New Carmine's DC location - Penn Quarter

Everyone is talking about it. I walked past the new Carmine’s located at 425 7 Street NW, between D&E Streets and snapped a couple of quick photos of the exterior. The windows were covered but they will be open tomorrow for dinner. Once they are open, Washingtonians will be flocking there to take a look at the new Carmine’s DC, from the legendary New York family style Italian restaurants. When officially opening for business tomorrow Tuesday, August 3rd for dinner service Carmine’s will become the largest restaurant in Washington, DC with over 20,030 square-feet and large enough to seat 700 guests.

Independently owned by the Alicart Restaurant Group, Carmine’s DC has a 40 seat wrap-around bar and a 50 seat lounge along with nine rooms for private dining.

The menu as in all Carmine’s, is broadcast on large boards placed in various locations throughout the restaurant and filled with favorites that diners have come to know and love.   Big, bold platters of food, made from the highest quality ingredients, arrive at the table and elicit the same wide-eyed reaction from first timers as well as seasoned diners of all ages recalling the simple pleasures of family style dining.  A nine-inch high Eggplant Parmigiana makes the table ooh and ahh.  Linguini, rigatoni, angel hair, spaghetti, with everything from red or white clam sauce to marinara, topped with homemade meatballs, sausage or mixed seafoodChicken dishes from scarpariella to saltimbocca, veal parmigiana to veal marsala, and seafood from scampi to fra diavolo are just a few examples from the all-day menu. As far as dessert goes, how about Italian cheesecake, chocolate covered cannoli, and of course, the smoothest Tiramisu in town.

Just this morning the Dictrict of Columbia Mayor, Adrian Fenty credits that the new restaurant will bring 200 new jobs to Washington DC in the Washington Post. Sounds like the new Carmine’s is a win-win for everyone. Stay tuned for more photos from Tuesday’s opening and dining review.

Read the Full article on Examiner.com …

NYC Chefs coming to DC

Scarpetta NYC Main Dining Room

Scarpetta NYC Main Dining Room

Everyone talks about how great the New York City dining scene is … but if NYC is so great, why do so many NY chefs come to DC to open restaurants? Perhaps we are the boutique dining scene. DC must offer something unique … I’d like to think that its us foodies, of course. We would rather go broke than not go to the hottest restaurants in town.

I was really sad when I heard that Todd English’s Olives at 16th & K Streets, NW closed. Fondly, I can remember having the best chicken breast with polenta of my life during restaurant week in February. I guess to go along with Italian tradition, they’re going to “Keep it in the family” (in my best Godfather voice). Papadopoulos Properties finalized a deal with Chef Scott Conant of acclaimed NYC Italian restaurant, Scarpetta, (“little shoe”) located in the rendy meat-packing district. Their DC location will open in the former Olives space at 1600 K Street, NW.

Another notable Italian restaurant, Carmine’s, NYC’s Times Square landmark, has signed a lease to open on 7th Street in Penn Quarter in the first quarter of 2010. It will be a big space – 20,000 square feet – and at the kitchen helm, Terry Natas, formerly of Virgil’s in Hell’s Kitchen. So what ever happens to the Chefs when a restaurant closes? Well … in this case, formerly of Olives, Steve Mannino will take the reins at the much-talked-about Rustico in Alexandria, after Frank Morales’ abrupt departure. In addition, Mannino will also oversee a second Rustico restaurant slated to open in Ballston on Wilson Blvd. Similar to the current Slater Lane location in Alexandria, it will also have a Buzz Bakery adjacent to it.