This is a review of the Washington, D.C., Italian restaurant Carmine’s. I recently had dinner there on a Saturday night, and my review is based on my own opinions. I came as a regular guest with friends. Carmine’s is a part of a small chain of eateries found in other select locations, including New York City, where the chain originated.
Impressions of the restaurant
The Carmine’s that’s in the Nation’s Capitol is centrally located, as it’s in the Penn Quarter District of the city. The atmosphere is one of being amid a lot of black and white photos while music from Frank Sinatra was playing in the dimly-lit dining areas (to add to the intimacy). The motif is such where one could be easily reminded of a movie where a scene inside one of those old-style Italian restaurants plays out. Basically, families or groups celebrating one thing or another were present, adding to the festive atmosphere of the establishment.
Now, the prices I will be quoting may seem high, but you must keep in mind that family-style portions are served here, which will generally feed four-plus people easily. So divide the prices you see in this article by at least four. We also saw the menu on one of the walls with the prices even though we had table menus.
The Fried Calamari is a must!
The restaurant has a variety of appetizers, which currently range in price from $13.50 for garlic bread to $32.50 for the Hot Antipasto selection. Carmine’s also features such appetizers like Stuffed Mushrooms, various salads, and Eggplant Parmigiana. The Fried Calamari ($29.50) is absolutely addictive! It came piled high on a large plate, and our dining party of seven people went through it quickly, yet we all got our fair share. I really tasted the freshness of the squid.
Our waiter did put free bread on the table. I sampled a cut square of the garlic bread, which emanated a mild taste. Overall, the service was pretty fast, but not hurried, so we could have time to converse and enjoy each course.
As for the entrées, we asked for and got one whole wheat pasta choice (Penne with Brocoli & Sausage: $29.50) and a seafood choice (Shrimp Fra Diavolo: $35.50). Once again, I could taste the freshness and quality of the ingredients in the penne pasta dish, as the tomato sauce had a robust flavor while the broccoli parts were big and scrumptious. The pasta dish was served in a gigantic bowl, and I actually got a box for the leftovers. The other diners enjoyed it, too, though they feasted on the sausage chunks in the dish, which I passed on. The freshness of the shrimp was apparent in the shrimp entrée, and each piece was nicely-sized.
Carmine’s entrees also cover other seafood choices around shrimp plus veal, beef, and chicken. The entrée/pasta dishes range in price from $25.50 and up, as some choices, like the rack of lamb and prime rib, can change on a daily basis.
Desserts are also family-size
The desserts to consume are large, too, if you manage to not get full from the other courses. We were too full to enjoy any of the numerous dessert offerings, but to give you an idea of how big they are, Carmine’s has a selection called The Titanic ($24.50), which is, as our server described it, “like a gigantic banana split.” Also included in the choices is the Chocolate Covered Cannoli ($16.50) which comes with six pieces. Desserts currently range from $14.50 and up.
For those who like wine and other alcoholic beverages, there’s plenty of choices. One can see a vast amount of wine bottles displayed as you enter the establishment and there’s a bar just inside the entrance.
Overall, I highly recommend this place. But it’s best to come with several people in order to average out the share of the check. Carmine’s encourages large groups, like wedding parties, to savor their food. See the website below for more details.
For more information on Carmine’s, go to this website
Prices and selections quoted are from the take-out menu the writer received at the Washington, D.C., restaurant, and are subject to change. Furthermore, prices and selections can vary by location.