"T is for Tania!" That's what's left of the Flintstone porterhouse.
I’ve never been good at Mexican. I chose to take French for my language requirement in school. I thought I was going to be a professional hockey player and that I might just end up playing for a French Canadian hockey team. French would come in handy, right? But it was during a tour of Toronto with the California All Star team that I discovered the odds of a kid from California playing on a Canadian hockey team—at any level—are about as good as the Jamaican bobsled team has at winning a gold medal. (This was also when I learned how much French Canadians suck and that I wouldn't play for one of their faggot teams even if I was good enough.) I’m not too bad at the French. I can get by. But I wish I could get by in fucking Spanish. I’ve picked up words here and there, but if you were to ask Tania, she’d tell you the extent of my Spanish is, “Salsa verde, por favor.” But I also know “carne.”
I remember having a revelation the day I learned "meat" in Mexican. “My last name is ‘meat,’” I thought. “And my parents are named Don and Kay!” I couldn’t stop laughing and I couldn’t wait to share my discovery over dinner.
“Guess what?” I said at the table, “Your names are Don Carnie and Kay Carnie, right? —well in Spanish, phonetically, anyway—in Spanish, Don means 'mister,' and Kay means 'what?' So your names are Mr. Meat and What Meat!” HAHA! I make funny, no?
They weren’t laughing. “Mr. Meat?” I said, “Get it?” No smiles. “…What… Meat?…” Silence. Apparently they didn’t like their Mexican names.
I, on the other hand, am delighted that my Scottish surname is a homophone with Mexican meat. ("So a Scottish homophone and a Mexican walk in a bar…" I just learned "homophone" today. I think I used it right?) My brother does, too. His email address is “carneasada@…”—which is weird because he’s a militant vegan. So I was overjoyed to learn that Mario Batali’s new restaurant at the Palazzo is called “Carnevino.” Holy shit! That’s like me, meat, and wine all wrapped up together. Those are three of my favorite things. And Carnevino is now one of our favorite restaurants.
Tantalizing Tania before the Palazzo fountains. I feel sorry for her because no matter what I wear, I don't look like I should be on that lady's arm.
This was our second visit to Carnevino. Our first visit was good, but it wasn’t near as great as this trip was. Because this time we had the best goddamn steak we’ve had in years. Apparently my father, Ole Mr. Meat, made the same mistake as I did on his first visit. While everyone in his party was gushing over how great their steaks were, his steak was pretty whatever. So was mine. It turns out we got the same thing: the New York strip. You will be tempted to order the New York Strip at Carnevino, but do not order the New York Strip. There is a bone-in rib eye for two ($135) and a “La Fiorentina” porterhouse for two ($145)—pretty expensive and quite a commitment—so for those who want to fly solo, there’s the NY strip ($51) and a filet mignon ($39). If you’re like Tania and I, you like to cover more ground on the menu and order different entrees so you can taste as much as possible. That strategy is a mistake at Carnevino: get the goddamn porterhouse, it’s the best fucking steak you’ll ever have. Even if no one will share with you, get it. You can take it back to your room and fuck it. Or eat the fuck out of the leftovers in the next morning like we did. Nom, nom, nom…
Bread, lardo, butter. Jesus, look at the lardo tub, it's like half gone.
I started at the entrée. Sorry. I shall go back to the beginning. When you sit down, they bring you bread, butter, and lardo. Mmmm lardo. The bread is so good by itself that it doesn’t need anything, but the lardo turns it into a meal unto itself. I have to use all the restraint I can muster to not eat the entire tub of lardo before I’ve even ordered. Oh and everything is so salty, even the bread. Tania and I love us some salt. Sharan was over for dinner one night and she said something like, “Yeah, I’ve noticed you two are a little heavy handed with the salt.” Her words echo in my head when I season now, “heavy handed… handed… handed…” I’m a little lighter on the salt when cooking for guests now. Not Mario. He’s grabbing fistfuls of salt with those giant sausage fingers and it rains down on every plate that comes out of the Carnevino kitchen. And why not? They have so many different kinds of finishing salts back there. More on that in a moment.
I have a real problem with restaurant photography. First, I rarely remember to take a picture until the food is at least half gone (as above with the veal carpaccio, "Oh shit, forgot to take the picture!"). Secondly, I can't take a decent picture because of the dim lighting and I refuse to be that douche bag over in the corner taking flash pictures of every plate of food for his fucking blog.
These were the oysters we had at Morels before Carnevino. I needed oysters for some reason. Oh, because they don't sell them at Emeril's anymore. Fuck Emeril. (Morel's had much better lighting as well.)
So if you can make it past the lardo and actually order some appetizers, they have some real treats. Tania loves carpaccio—we got it last time—but this time we went for the special which was a veal, served like a carpaccio, with a tuna aioli sauce on it. Delicious. The weird thing is I’ve been seeing this dish ever since. It was on the menu at L’Atelier the following evening, and I just saw it on some food show I was watching the other day. That's a trend I can get into. Since we decided to go with the porterhouse, we skipped the pasta stage, but they’ll serve you a small order of whatever you want and there’s some gems on that menu. And lastly, with your steak, you get a choice of sauce (which they serve on the side). I have struck out twice on the sauce. I don’t remember what I got the first time, but this time the waitress recommended the truffle sauce, so we went with that. We need to run some more tests, but I don’t think I like truffles. This bugs the shit out of me. I’m supposed to be a foodie and all foodies love truffles. Everyone gets a boner over truffles, but I’ve had em a few times now and each time I’m not impressed. This time it was just downright gross. Tania loved it. Which made us wonder if I’m genetically disposed to dislike them? Like how some people can’t eat cilantro? (Incidentally, Tania, you need to get your Lydia Bastianich interview up here… yeah, Tania interviewed our bald ass granny, Lydia. Although Tania refers to her as “my new mom” now. I’ll let Tania tell the story, but this is actually a timely aside because, as you might know, Lydia’s real child, Joe Bastianich, is co-owner at Carnevino. We drank some Bastianich wine with dinner. Lovely. Oh, and in more family news: the bartender at Carnevino used to work at their restaurant Babbo in NYC. We thought it was kind of cool that they have this extended restaurant family.)
Tania enjoying carneheaven. (Note the three little bowls of salt.)
And then the steak arrived. “Ohhhh,” we cooed. That porterhouse was some Flintstone shit. They set it up on a little table next to you and a lady with a sharp knife goes at it and carves it up for you. Each person gets equal slices of the filet and the strip. Again, so good. And ask for salt as Tania did. The lady tried to deter Tania by reminding her, “We season pretty heavily, so I don’t think you’ll need any. But I’ll bring you our seasoning salts.” There were three different salts. I know one was fleur de sel, and I think the other two were from Italy? The Mediterranean? I don’t care, I’m into salt and I had a field day with that shit. It’s fun to play with, but the lady was right: it didn’t need anything.
So, yeah, Carnevino, don’t eat too much lardo, get the porterhouse, ask for salt and truffles piss me off. Did I mention the sommelier looked those twins in The Proclaimers? Does anyone know what "havering" means? Fuckin’ Scots. Anyway, I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walks 1000 miles to fall down at Carnevino’s door.