Carmine's, an authentic Italian resto that also boasts the distinction of being DC's largest dining destination. Standing at 20,000 square feet and 700 seats, this full-service restaurant and bar offers both large and small private dining spaces plus a VIP entrance, which has already hosted notables like Elena Kagan, Michael Bloomberg and the rapper Nas.
We weren't sure what to expect from this multi-outpost restaurant known for its generous (read: huge) family-style portions of traditional faves like meatballs, eggplant parmesan and tirimisu, but when we sat down and opened up a bottle of the house Chianti, made with grapes from the company's own Italian vineyard, our attitudes began to change.
The food is massive -- each dish serves four to six hungry adults, so make sure to come hungry, and, ideally, at happy hour, where cocktails like their signature frozen cosmo and very berry basil cocktail are just $5. The menu is easy to read - it hasn't changed in 20+ years and it's located on massive billboards all over the restaurant, but our favorite part was the special dietary-restriction friendly addition, which caters to vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and other special preferences.
We opted to begin with the Eggplant Parmesan, which, quite literally, was the size of a Costco frozen portion one would buy for a party. It was MASSIVE - and delicious. I would have eaten the whole thing, if our gluten-free pasta with white clam sauce, meatballs, and veal saltimbocca wasn't already on the way - and I'm glad I waited. The food? Delish. Tradish Italiano and served family-style, one felt as if they were dining in the company of friends.
For dessert? Luckily, some of our party had a birthday coming up, so we were treated to the best part of the meal - our waitress, Nyeema, sang the most beautiful Italian rendition of "Happy Birthday" that we've ever heard.
For groups, special occasions, or just a fun night out with friends, Carmine's is a place we'd totally return.
*~*Our dinner was courtesy of Carmine's but our opinion is totally our own. I.E., if we didn't like it, we wouldn't write about it. *~*