Restaurants / Openings

Major Food Group’s Long Awaited Texas Debut Includes a Brand New Italian Wine Bar — Inside the Lavish Carbone Vino

Mario Carbone Talks Dallas, '80s Vintages, and the Perfect Pair of Cowboy Boots

BY // 04.07.22

After years of Dallas friends asking Mario Carbone to bring his celeb-loved Italian-American concept to our city, the New York chef finally found the perfect opportunity in the Design District, which just last week became home to the first Texas location of his famous namesake restaurant. And tonight, Dallas gets an additional gift: Carbone’s sister wine bar, aptly named Carbone Vino, opens right next door.

The co-founder of Major Food Group (other co-founders are Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick) sat down with us on Vino’s lovely outdoor patio to talk about the brand new concept. And though he’s now spent five weeks in Dallas overseeing the openings of Carbone and New York brunch haven Sadelle’s in Highland Park Village, Carbone concedes that he hasn’t found the perfect pair of cowboy boots just yet. “They will find me,” he jokes.

 

Mario Carbone
We talk to chef/co-founder Mario Carbone about Carbone and Vino — opening tonight. (Courtesy of MFG)

A Little Background on Carbone

“I had a fascination with restaurants as a kid,” Carbone tells PaperCity. Growing up in Queens, it seemed like restaurants worked like magic to a young Mario Carbone — the way the tuxedo-clad waiters commanded the table felt like going to the theater. Naturally, he wanted to see what went on behind the closed doors of a kitchen.

When he was old enough, he found jobs in local restaurants and went on to earn a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, later working at New York’s wd~50 and Café Boulud.

When the 90-year-old Rocco Restaurant, one of the classic Italian-American restaurants that dazzled the chef in his youth, announced its closure, he had an idea. Carbone and the newly formed Major Food Group moved into the Greenwich Village spot in 2013, reviving the once sleepy spot with a menu of Italian classics done Michelin-star-worthy and a design that evoked the mid-century heyday of Italian-American fine dining — complete with vintage-style tuxedos designed by Zac Posen.

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Carbone has since expanded to Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Miami (in 2021), and now, Dallas, which officially opened on March 31.

 

Carbone Vino
Designed by Ken Fulk, Carbone Vino’s design drew inspiration from favorite Northern Italy restaurants and hotels.

Carbone Vino Debuts in Dallas

Though Carbone’s roots are undoubtedly in New York City, Dallas will be home to a brand new concept for the Italian-American classic: Carbone Vino.

Ultimately, it came down to everything-is-bigger-in-Texas reasoning. When Major Food Group landed on the Design District space a few years ago, they also inherited two kitchens (those of Headington Company’s Wheelhouse and Sassetta, which operated as separate-but-related restaurants).

“We loved the location in the Design District, but it didn’t feel right to split Carbone up into two different sides,” Carbone explains. So, they took the opportunity to create an entirely new space.

Carbone Vino features a fresh dinner menu and puts the spotlight on the artisanship of Italian wine, with bottles dating back to the 1980s. “We’ve had to build relationships to get our hands on some of these,” the chef adds.

Wine by the Quartino

Housing over 1,000 bottles of wine, according to Carbone, Vino will also offer diners the unique option of ordering by the glass, bottle, or quartino — the last of which is a carafe that holds a glass of wine and a half portion.

“The quartino allows guests to sample different wines,” Carbone says.

 

Carbone Vino
Carbone Vino opens tonight in the Design District. (Photo by Douglas Friedman)

The Carbone Look

Both spaces were designed by Major Food Group go-to Ken Fulk. “Ken visits a space and has an idea immediately,” Carbone says. “We start over in each new city. We want each location to be its own thing.”

For Vino, the team drew inspiration from favorite Northern Italy restaurants and hotels. There is a strong regal feel. Elaborate chandeliers, pharmacy cabinets, and gold-rimmed mirrors make up the decor. Chef Carbone’s favorite design elements include oil paintings dating back to the late 1800s on the walls of Vino, and at Carbone, black-and-white photographs taken by William Klein in Rome in the late 1950s.

Modeled after the grand wine drinking restaurants of Italy, the space is lavish to meet the level of wine that is being offered.

 

Carbone Vino
Carbone Vino will feature thin-crust square pizzas.

The Food Menu

You’ll still find a few Carbone classics at Vino, including veal parmesan, Caesar alla ZZ, and the famous spicy rigatoni vodka. Everything else was created for Vino specifically — allowing chef Carbone to experiment a bit. You’ll find a few platters for the table, including Italian salumi, vegetables, and seafood crudo options, as well as Florentine beef cuts and a whole steamed lobster.

But the big thing is thin-crust square pizzas. Expect five options, including one of Mario Carbone’s favorites: a clam and Italian sausage pie.

“I grew up eating Sicilian pizza, and it’s like one slice and you’re full,” the chef shares. “This will be light and crisp so you can sit and have a few pieces.”

 

Carbone Vino
Don’t miss pastry chef Stephanie Prida’s Zeppole at Carbone Vino.

Walk-Ins Welcome

Another difference at Carbone Vino is that — unlike reservation-only Carbone — you can walk right in. (Although you have the option to book a table on Resy as well). But one thing Carbone and Carbone Vino both have in common: an emphasis on showmanship.

“This is the closest restaurant comparison to theater,” Carbone says. “It’s a play.”

When asked if he would consider opening more restaurants in Texas in the future, Carbone remains mysterious. “I have to find my perfect pair of cowboy boots first.”

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