by Andrew Chalk
There is a New York City Italian restaurant opening an outpost in Dallas. Carbone, the flagship of the Major Food Group, is described as “Red-sauce Italian American food…” and a “Big-Deal” in a gushy D Magazine piece. Red sauce, of course, is something we have never had here in Dallas. If the thought of it doesn’t already have you ovulating, the wine corkage fee in NYC is $95 per bottle.
But wait a moment. Those of us who have been here longer than the last Antifa riot in Portland will remember the comical history of another NYC superstar restaurant, Il Mulino, which arrived in 2004, amid massive PR fanfare, and only lasted two years. People paid $85 check averages, 18 years ago, for meals of pasta dishes with various takes on red sauce. Il Mulino pitched its prices above any other Italian restaurant in town in the belief that people would pay the premium.
Carbone appears to be pursuing a similar strategy. The Dallas menu is not available online yet, but comparing its NYC dinner menu with that of the remarkably similarly named, but totally unconnected, Carbone’s, a local Dallas restaurant on Oak Lawn opened in 2012 by local restaurateur Julian Barsotti, allows some comparisons. Chopped salad is $13 at Carbone’s and $22 at Carbone. Caesar is $13 at Carbone’s but $25 at Carbone. Calamari is $15 at Carbone’s and $24 at Carbone. Veal Parmesan will put a little more systemic risk on the financial system. It is $26 at Carbone’s, but $65 at Carbone.
Of course, every restaurant prepares similar sounding dishes differently so a price comparison cannot tell us everything. However, in the case of Il Mulino, it appeared everybody went -- once. Then they went back to their prior Italian favorite places and decided they were better, overall. After two years, Il Mulino had simply run out of new first-timers. Carbone could go the same way. Time will tell.