If you close your eyes and try to picture a classic Italian restaurant of yesteryear, Carbone is what you’ll see. Aria’s upscale version is an homage to Manhattan’s red sauce restaurant of the same name, which itself seems like an homage to old fashioned Italian joints where patrons spent more time looking over their shoulders than at their plates.
It’s probably not right to stereotype and associate old school Italian eateries with La Cosa Nostra, but those are the vibes I got at Carbone. Not from the company or the staff, but the quiet, dark atmosphere. Either way, I had far less distractions during my Carbone visit than a typical turn of the century Mob boss—which is good, because the plates were worth the attention.
The tables sit on a checkerboard floor and a dark, backlit bar spans the width of the restaurant. The green leather chairs and brass fixtures lining the bar’s facade establish the vintage undertones.
My made man Han guided me and our friend Eric through the menu. These dinner plans were Han’s idea. It’s a good thing he’s around, as this is perhaps one of the best meals I’ve had in Vegas.
There are plenty of Italian restaurants up and down the Strip. Some kitchy and fun, others bland and boring. Carbone gets it right with classic, hearty dishes, elevated to a standard that reminds me that great Italian food better than any meal I can think of.
I started off with the house old fashioned. Rum is the feature liquor at Carbone, so the usual bourbon was replaced with El Dorado 12 year. I’ll be honest, rum doesn’t really work for me as a substitute in an old fashioned, but it wasn’t offensive and it was priced right at a restaurant of this caliber.
The food didn’t miss, though. The spicy rigatoni had a perfect blend of sharpness with the vodka sauce and richness of the fresh pasta. The meatballs, generously slathered in red sauce, had a very subtle sear, giving it a nice mix of crunch and moistness. And, of course, I have no picture of the show stopper of Carbone, the veal parmesan. It’s actually quite a simple dish, but great, fresh ingredients and some talented chefs make all the difference.
There’s really not much else to say. It’s a beautiful restaurant in a beautiful casino. All the dishes were fresh and savory and filling and everything you’d want to set off a great Vegas evening. If you like Italian food, Carbone is a spot to add to your list.