Restaurant: Carbone and The Who

October 4, 2006

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Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to score This-Side-of-Free [TSOF] tickets to see The Who at Madison Square Garden. Woo-hoo!

I must admit, though I do like The Who, I’m excited about TSOF tickets in general, so I wasn’t really worried about whether they’d be any good or not. And considering two of the original four band members have died, leaving us with Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend (who’s had his share of troubles), really how much could one expect? I thought, they’re old and half dead (literally)–at best this will be a nostalgia show. But boy was I wrong! They ROCKED!

The back up band–though rigidly confined to their space BEHIND the two ‘stars’– was filled with great musicians (though neither TG nor I were impressed with the drummer). Even the set was awesome. Usually when rock groups play a large venue and have a screen behind them, it just seems to be showing random images, its main purpose is to take up room. Not this time! They had 5 screens that not only moved up and down, but they were actually used to enhance the music–it was awesome!

And the two “old dudes”, how’d they do? Well, Pete seemed at a loss for words during the first few numbers–and let’s face it–when they zoom in on your face and put you on the jumbo-tron, you can’t really hide the fact that you’re messing up the lyrics. But the man can still play! His guitar work was unbelievable—an amazing thing to experience, even in a room that big.

And Roger Daltry? Oh. My. Oh MY. OH MY! He still has his voice—all power and emotion, not diminished with age–could be even riper than it used to be, in fact. And I must admit, by about half way through, in addition to admiring his singing, I found myself focusing almost as much on how GOOD he looked. Dressed like a rocker: black shoes, jeans, button shirt open over a t-shirt and small blue sunglasses—he bridged the gap between his age and his rocker status—and it all worked. Frankly, he looked so sexy, I just wanted to *lick* him. (Wow. Can’t believe I just admitted that here—but it’s true. And that thought added a whole other dimension to the show…*smile*)

We wanted to grab something rather light and quick before the show–something near MSG, but not too near so that it wouldn’t be mobbed….and I wanted pizza! From somewhere new preferably. (By “new” I mean “new-to-me”) Did a bit of searching and settled on Carbone (331 West 38th Street, between 8th & 9th Aves.), an Italian Restaurant featuring “Coal Burning Pizza” according to the menu I picked up on my way out. A mistake in translation, or their way of being funny? I can’t quite tell…

Anyway it had gotten some good reviews, I love coal-oven pizza and the location was perfect, so we tried it. As I turned onto the block, my doubts began to creep in. It was a block that did not possibly look like it contained the “hidden”, “exposed brick” “gem of a restaurant” I had read about. The block was rather industrial—it seemed like a now-defunct entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel more than a Manhattan street just south of Times Square. But I forged ahead, and more than half way down (much closer to 9th Ave than 8th) there it was, tucked into the north side of the street—French doors opened to the quiet street, a long dark bar in front and the coal burning oven tucked into one corner. They also have a garden way in the back, but as it was raining a bit we didn’t get that far and stayed up near the oven.

We ordered the Mesclun Salad and a large pie with Mushrooms, Fresh Tomato, and Sausage (but the sausage only on half, as TG is not content to just pick it off. It makes for some very interesting “turf wars” depending on the cook’s rendition of “half”…). And the result? Split decision. I love the baby greens–so, so fresh and a bit crunchy with a nice drizzle of good olive oil (tasted like my Gramma’s salad) and I loved the smokiness of the thin crust. The fresh mozzarella had even melted to just the right gummy consistency. But TG was not impressed. He didn’t like the greens (but he tends not to be a fan of mesclun) and thought the pizza was only ok. (He’s a big fan of Patsy’s, and thought this didn’t hold a candle to that.) The other dishes that passed us looked and smelled fabulous–I’d like to go back and try a pasta or two–based on the aroma, I think they might taste like my Gramma’s…

So the result: though I wouldn’t go out of my way just to eat there again, I really enjoyed it, and would happily eat there if I were in the neighborhood. So keep that in mind the next time you find yourself headed to a show at MSG or on Broadway or just in the Times Square area and are looking for something away from the crowds—Carbone could be just what you’re looking for!

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