PoP Preview – Carmine’s Italian Restaurant

Back in the end of June I mentioned that Carmine’s would be opening on Aug. 3 in Penn Quarter at 425 7th St, NW. Yesterday I was able to get a tour of the 20,000 square foot space.

Main bar near entrance, Photo courtesy of Carmine’s

I was given a tour by Chief Executive Officer of the Alicart restaurant group (parent company of Carmine’s), Jeff Bank. Ed. Note: The Alicart group also runs Virgil’s Real BBQ which is likely coming to DC in the next 6 – 12 months. Stay tuned for updates on that front.

As mentioned before the space is huge, 20,000 square feet, but doesn’t feel huge because in addition to the main dining room the rest of the space is split into 9 private dining rooms. They’ve hired 250 folks, including 200 new jobs for DC. A bit of an interesting history on the space – it was going to be a grocery store (Balducci’s) before the economy and Bear Stearns imploded. The space now has an old school feel with old pictures on the walls as well as some paintings (to be in a painting you have to be “Italian and dead”.)

Continues after the jump.

One of 9 private dining rooms. Photo courtesy of Carmine’s

Bank described the feel as 1930s retro Italian. It’s the type of meal you would get at “an old world Italian wedding or at your grandma’s house”. He stressed that the restaurant was not a pretentious place. I def. got that feel from Bank who was an easy going but fast talking New Yorker describing the restaurant’s details at about a mile a minute. Though the place is not pretentious they are capable of handling VIP guests with a secure back entrance and the above mentioned private rooms. Bank sees the restaurant as all inclusive, attracting VIPs, locals, tourists, business folks, and even students.

Carmine’s is considered a “Family Style Southern Italian Restaurant”. The menu has hardly changed over 20 years. You can see the menu here. Each item could serve between 4-6 people. I got to see some of the dishes and they were gigantic:

Photo courtesy of Carmine’s

Photo courtesy of Carmine’s

One of the interesting items that I didn’t anticipate were the lunch subs (like meatball parm, chicken parm etc.) from the lunch menu. The special is $9.95 and comes with a salad. Beck said that folks often split the sandwich it is so large.

The restaurant opens tonight, Aug. 3rd at 5pm and will be open 7 days a week not even closing for holidays. On Wed. they’ll be open for lunch too. They’ve also signed a 25 year lease so you’ll def. have the chance to try them out. Personally I’m looking forward to the eggplant parm.

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