Last date I was here: 07/21/2011
Restaurant: Carmine's (http://www.carminesnyc.com/locations/wadc/index.php/)
Location: Penn Quarter
Total Rating: 3.1
Food: 3, Price: 3, Service: 3, Ambience: 3, Accessibility: 5
Summary: This Italian chain restaurant from New York has opened in a 20,000 square foot location in the heart of DC. Serving enormous family style portions, each dish is meant to be shared between 2-4 people. With a limited generic menu, Carmine's is mediocre to quench the typical Italian craving and satisfy large groups. Closest Metro is Archives-Naval Memorial.
January 2011: We decided to try Carmine's due to its location and I was really jonesing for some Italian cuisine on this wintery day. We were seated right away, but in an odd small table in the corner next to a window and the POS system - the waiter was constantly in my personal space to type in his orders. A basket of assorted bread is served with olive oil mixed with chunks of garlic and herbs. Our server immediately warned us that only one dish would be sufficient for the both of us, and that if we ordered an entree - it is just the meat, but pasta could be added for an extra $9. After quickly looking over the menu (there wasn't much variety - standard meals offered such as rigatoni, sausage, chicken, veal) we ordered a quartino of red wine to share, and it was just enough at first. But with all the food to soon arrive, we ended up ordering a second bottle. The appetizer was a little disappointing in size and quality, especially for the price. But Carmine's made up for it with our entree. Four chicken breast cutlets served over a gigantic mound of angel hair pasta. The meat was cooked perfectly for my tastes, and the sauce was pretty flavorful. We stuffed ourselves pretty good before surrendering to take the rest home. All in all, Carmine's was just OK - in the style of Maggiano's or Bucca di Beppo's - and not really a place I would recommend for parties less than 6.
UPDATE: On this thick and muggy hot summer day, a few of my colleagues had heard good things about Carmine's food and decided to go there for lunch. The seven of us arrived a little after 11:30am and were seated right away in the large main dining area. Our waiter explained the large family style portions or the smaller individual portions to the group and we all quickly decided to each order our own individual meal from the lunch menu. Some nibbled from the bread basket while we waited and constantly refilled our own tiny water glasses (they even left a pitcher of water on the table - how convenient!). Most ordered a "famous NY hero" served with a side salad, while one other ordered a dinner salad and another ordered the traditional spaghetti and meatballs. Even for the "individual lunch portion" - each meal was gigantic in size and more than enough for two or more persons to share. Most everyone only ate the side salad and maybe half of the sandwich before surrendering to pack the rest up in a box. Again, the food was good - nice seasoning, but nothing exceptional. A few thought it was still overpriced, regardless of the generous portions. The first timers were quick to notice the lack of attention with the service - especially with dirty appetizer plates and lack of refilling of drinks. Soda has free refills, yet the "specialty" drinks like lemonade or fruit punch cost $4.50 each. Only those who ordered the lemonade were asked for a refill (without knowing it was NOT free), while those with soda were ignored and left to sip through the ice. This was a bit annoying and when pointed out to the server, he showed no sympathy and rather kept repeating "I only do what I am told." The shady tactic left disatisfied customers who shan't be returning anytime soon.
What I ate:
over angel hair pasta
Chicken Cutlet Combo Hero
chicken breast with fried eggplant, mozzarella, and tomato sauce
served with side of mixed salad