Carmine’s a nice addition to Penn Quarter

Even if you don’t come from a large, boisterous Italian family, you will definitely feel like a member of one as soon as you step through the doors of Carmine’s on 7th St.

With seating for 700 and sauces made from scratch daily, Carmine’s promises simple southern Italian cooking served family style and a fun dining experience.

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The restaurant was originally supposed to be a Balducci’s grocery store, and patrons can still see remnants of the store, including elevators from the downstairs garage below.

Plates are served family style, which means huge portions with plenty to share (Carmine’s suggests they serve four to six people). Come hungry and be prepared to temporarily quit any sort of a diet, as the eggplant parmesan comes out smothered in mozzarella cheese and is the size of a brick.

For lighter eaters out there, the Carmine’s salad is a great choice. Served with salami, sharp provolone, red pepper and some of the tastiest green olives in town, it’s a great alternative to a Caesar or mixed salad.

Entrees include veal, seafood, beef or chicken dishes, as well as a daily house special each day and, of course, 19 different pasta dishes to try.

My party chose the traditional spaghetti and meatballs with angel hair pasta. The meatballs were the size of softballs and seasoned to perfection. The home cooked pasta tasted like it was freshly churned from your grandmother’s spaghetti maker, and the sauce was clearly made with fresh tomatoes and herbs.

The chicken parmesan was a sight in itself, pounded to a thin breast, breaded and slathered in savory tomato sauce with mozzarella that seemed to complement every bite. The single plate of chicken served our party of seven, with leftovers included.

Still hungry for more? If there’s any way you can eat dessert after the amount of food Carmine’s brings out to you, try the Titanic. The dish — about the size of the doomed ship, or so it seems — is a flourless chocolate cake served with five scoops of ice cream, homemade whipped cream, hot fudge, hazelnuts, strawberries, bananas and cinnamon encrusted pineapples. For those with a sweet tooth, it is heaven on a plate.

Also, be sure to go to Carmine’s with someone’s birthday approaching. One waitress was a singer and her version of “Happy Birthday” will silence the typically loud dining room.

Carmine’s is the largest restaurant in D.C. and utilizes every inch of its space, complete with private dining rooms, WiFi access and a separate Secret Service entrance of which recent guests Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg took advantage.

While you’re waiting for your meal, take a look around at the family photos covering the walls of Carmine’s. Also, the chandeliers are individually different, making for a unique and family oriented feel. The entire Carmine’s experience is not one to be missed.

To dine at Carmine’s this fall, visit www.carminesnyc.com for reservations or call 202-737-7770.


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