Michelin-starred Italian restaurant Carbone is expanding to Dallas.
The New York City red-sauce restaurant with a “lust for excess” is expected to open in the Dallas Design District on April 1.
[Update on Nov. 20, 2020: The opening date was pushed to April 2021. It was originally expected to open Dec. 1, 2020.]
“We love Dallas and have always felt that it would be an incredible home for Carbone,” says Jeff Zalaznick, managing partner for Carbone’s parent company Major Food Group (MFG) out of New York City.
Stephen Summers, the Dallas investor who has been working for eight years to bring Carbone to Dallas, says the team at MFG is “seemingly the best restaurateurs in the most important restaurant city in the world.”
Summers calls the Carbone deal in Texas “a big coup for Dallas.”
Carbone will replace Wheelhouse and Sassetta, two restaurants owned by billionaire Tim Headington that did not reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Sassetta will likely relocate to downtown Dallas, says Jeny Bania, Headington’s senior vice president of PR and brand marketing.
Carbone is described by the Michelin guide as a “gorgeous” restaurant with a Godfather-like quality. It’s a place that feeds “brash bankers with big appetites,” many who pay $250 per person to eat there. Menu items include shrimp scampi, veal parmesan, whole lobster and New York strip steaks. The most popular dishes, according to Zalaznick, include the spicy rigatoni and the meatballs.
“While the food is unbelievably, exceptionally well prepared, the settings are unpretentious and fun,” Summers says. “It’s high energy, high theater, high drama. Everything about it is next-level.”
The $18 lemon cheesecake just might be “the best you’ll ever have in your life,” says a 2013 review in The New York Times. The cheesecake remains on the menu seven years later.
The Caesar salad, also a popular dish according to Zalaznick, is $25. Why’s the salad so pricey? “We are making most likely the most expensive version of something you’ve had many times before,” chef and managing partner Mario Carbone told Eater back in 2014. “If you can get over that fact, hopefully we can produce the best one as well.”
Carbone is not to be confused with Carbone’s Fine Food & Wine, an Italian restaurant and grocery on Oak Lawn Avenue in Dallas. Carbone’s is operated by Highland Park restaurateur Julian Barsotti, who runs some of Dallas’ best Italian restaurants with Nonna, Sprezza and Fachini. (Summers is an investor in these restaurants, too.)
Carbone’s in Dallas opened in 2012 and isn’t related to Carbone in New York, which opened in 2013. Carbone’s was named for Barsotti’s great-grandfather’s restaurants that operated in New York and New Jersey for more than 60 years.
MFG operates a host of restaurants, including Dirty French, a New York bistro; ZZ’s Clam Bar, a seafood restaurant; Parm, a casual Italian-American restaurant; and Sadelle’s, a brunch spot. All started in New York City.
Carbone also exists in Hong Kong and Las Vegas.
Zalaznick says there’s “something very special about the Dallas Design District, and we are thrilled to become part of this exciting neighborhood.”
Bill Hutchinson, president of Dunhill Partners and the Dallas Design District’s most prolific developer, was part of the Carbone deal. Hutchinson brought similar celebrity to the Design District when he partnered with Richard Branson to build the Virgin Hotel in Dallas.
Hutchinson also stars on a Lifetime TV show called Marrying Millions.
The lease for Carbone was signed in late summer, in the midst of a pandemic that has threatened hundreds of small-scale restaurants in Dallas.
Hutchinson believes Dallas restaurant sales are about to swing up if they haven’t already. Some of the Dallas restaurants he has invested in, like Toulouse, Taverna and Doce Mesas, are learning to adapt to 50% occupancy and are expanding their patio seating, he says.
“Luckily, in Dallas, people are getting out, they’re socializing, they’re dining,” Hutchinson says. “That’s helping the economy and it’s keeping the restaurants open. And that’s what we need in this community.”
Still, Dallas County health officials continue to say that residents “stay home, stay safe” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Hutchinson says securing Carbone is “not only a survival story, but a ’we’re coming back, big story.”
“We’re bringing in world-famous restaurants. They want to be here because they see the energy and the social life and vibrance of the Dallas community.”