2007 – Carmine’s
6.34 - 7, 7, 6.5, 6.25, 6, 6, 6, 6
- closed September 2009
It was damp and dark, but still unusually mild for mid-January as we met at the Adams’ house for our customary pre-dinner drinks and munchies. As always, Buddy met us with his usual enthusiasm and, of course, kisses and hugs. What a cuddle bug he’s become… ...
Then off we went. The Teators theorized that we were going south or east, or a combination of the two, and we started in an easterly direction but somehow ended up on the Thruway heading north. Fortunately, Tim kept his speed manageable so the little 4 cylinder could keep up with the Beemer. A quick exit off I-90 onto Central Avenue and it looked liked we might be eating at Friendly’s as we took the turn toward that establishment. Fortunately, tucked in the back corner of the plaza behind Friendly’s was Carmine’s. We had all heard of it, but with the exception of Tim and Judy, none of us had been there before. A pleasant surprise, especially if Friendly’s was the alternative…
As you might expect, the aromas of garlic and sauce and good food fill the air as you walk in to this traditional Italian restaurant. Dimly lit, with simple but tasteful, decorating set the atmosphere for what you hoped would be some great Italian food. It was clear from the start that Danielle, our server, was friendly and quite capable. It also became clear early on that there was a reason she was so tiny – she had too much to do and she had to move quickly just to keep up. It was a busy night and we sat in our favorite configuration – a round table. Right in back our table behind a semi-open glass door was Carmine himself cooking for a boisterous table of 10-12 people, making for more noise level than we would have liked.
Drinks were two bottles of a Beringer Pinot Noir, two glasses of pinot grigio and a diet coke. Since the menu was a bit overwhelming for some us who were having a difficult time deciding on a dinner entrée, we ordered appetizers to share. Shortly after, we enjoyed crab stuffed artichokes, rolled mozzarella with prosciutto, and bruschetta. The artichokes were to die for according to those that chose to partake and everything else disappeared with no complaints. Fresh bread was delivered in plentiful supply with an olive and garlic mufaletto (sp? - we thought it similar to a tapanade).
Salad was simple greens garnished with shredded carrots and a finely shaved slice of tomato and dressed with a somewhat sweet, tasty vinagrette. Dinner was ordered and was subsequently delivered four meals at a time. Not a problem ordinarily - how many plates can any one person carry, even on a tray? But the second set of four meals took a little longer to arrive at the table than anyone was comfortable with. Kriss took an extraordinary departure (for her) from beef with a chicken, broccoli and pasta dish, declaring it quite good for not being “meat”. Ken and Tim noshed on generous portions veal parm, Ken enjoying his while Tim commented something about “too much sauce” – to each his own. Deb T. claimed the seared scallops special to be “fabulous”. Judy worked her way through a heaping bowl of zuppa di pesce. Don had a chicken and shrimp dish which he deemed o.k., a tasty sauce and overall a good dish, but the chicken a bit overdone. Chay enjoyed his shrimp and pasta dish while Deb K worked on her tilapia, which was excellent with the exception of the tilapia part – the fish tasted old and definitely fishy – a bit of a disappointment.
Ken’s coffee cup was small and didn’t get refilled nearly enough. However, to Danielle’s credit, I would say she was doing the best she could as ‘chief cook and bottle washer’. She had several tables to take care of, she filled and refilled water glasses, she cleared dishes, she brought more bread and drinks, she did it all, but it was too much of a job for any one person on a busy Saturday night. Kudos to Danielle for a great effort.
But I digress, because the most important part of the meal (for some of us anyone, right, Don?) was yet to come. A dessert cart arrived with at least 6-8 different dessert choices plus an additional 3-4 “specials” all made in house. Judy went with the lemon mascarpone cake (heavenly), Don and Kriss opted for chocolate cream pie (o.k.), Deb T chose the chocolate flourless “fallen” cake with ice cream, and Deb K shared with Chay the Oreo cake (very rich, dense and chocolately, just like it should be). Tim took a break from his normal Frangelica, replacing it with a port (not so great). Chay had his customary Sambuca (it didn’t cloud over ice and tasted watered down – what’s up with that? Chay claimed he had never seen that happen before) and Ken skipped dessert and an after dinner drink altogether. Desserts as usual, “disappeared”, even for those diners who chose to take part of their meal home.
With appetizers, desserts and drinks, we came in just under $100 a couple, about normal for us. As we exited the restaurant, we stopped to peruse the photos of former patrons perhaps a bit more famous than us (Courtney Cox, that bald guy from Star Trek – Patrick something, Channel 13 news people – did I forget to mention Carmine has a cooking show on Channel 13 on Sunday Mornings?).
Although it was clear that this night’s dining experience didn’t measure up to the Adam’s expectations, overall it was a very pleasant dining experience. Don’t get me wrong; food is a big part of my life and when we go out there’s not much more I like than an incredible meal with superior service, but the company is so good at DP8 and we talk and laugh and enjoy ourselves so much that I tend to soften on some of the details of the meal. In any event, Carmine’s would be a definite ‘do again’ for me.