Major Food Group's Miami Takeover
Carbone's spicy rigatoni vodka is as popular as ever in the Magic City
The year 2020 was — for the most part — a worldwide dumpster fire. As Miamians rang in 2021, we looked forward to something new. Something exciting. Something like a good pasta dish.
In January 2021, Major Food Group opened an outpost of its New York City wunderkind, Carbone, in South Beach. Almost immediately, it became one of the buzziest restaurants in town with every Instagram feed filled with images of spicy rigatoni vodka. If you wanted a reservation and weren’t a celebrity be prepared to dine on a Monday at 11 p.m. (if you could get a table at all).
Almost one year in, Carbone is still one of the most sought out reservations in Miami.
Last night I went to dinner with two friends. We pulled up our Honda Civic behind the Lamborghini and my friend quipped to the valet, “I’m sure you’d rather be driving this car than that jalopy in front of us.” As we walked to the entrance, a “Real Housewife,” dressed in a gold sequined dress, was talking to someone outside as a 90-Day Fiance alum walked in.
Seated in a corner booth, I recalled just why I like this place so much: The dark walls, the chandeliers, the bar carts, the buzz. The room was awash with celebration (as evidenced by several people opening boxes and small shopping bags from Dior and Gucci) amidst a soundtrack of the Four Seasons and Sinatra.
As I sipped on my Negroni (a classic one sans “bubbly”) and perused the oversized menu, servers placed dishes of salumi, giardiniera, cheese, and a bread basket on the table. I loved that the Italian hand-painted plates had a few chips, showing their terra cotta heart — a sign that these precious dishes were prized.
I appreciated how our captain, Gio, resplendent in a burgundy coat, helped us choose wine, suggested the eggplant & zucchini scapece (a divine dish of chilled, piquant vegetables), and presented an inlaid wood box filled with gorgeous truffles should we want some shaved on our pasta (we gracefully declined).
As always, the food was plentiful, deceptively simple, and spot on. My friends, unconvinced that a little dish of pasta deserved so much hype, soon converted to the church of the spicy rigtoni vodka.
As we enjoyed our lemon New York cheesecake, Gio mentioned that we should return for the special ricotta cheesecake that will be baked on December 12 to celebrate Frank Sinatra’s birthday (yes Gio, you can count on that).
As we walked out, a paparazzo was outside, waiting for Drake. This was as good a sign as any that Carbone still has the “it” factor.
Major Food Group is as enamored with Miami as Miami is with it. Since opening Carbone in Miami Beach, partners Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick have opened their brunch palace, Sadelle’s in Coconut Grove, Dirty French Steakhouse in Brickell, and ZZ’s Club and Contessa in Miami’s Design District. They also have restaurants at the tony Boca Raton hotel (open for guests and members only).
In the past, New York restaurateurs have opened establishments in Miami unsuccessfully. It may be because they opened spots that they thought Miamians would like and then flew back to New York. Instead, Jeffrey Zalaznick and Mario Carbone both purchased homes here, showing they’re in it for the long haul.
More New York heavy hitters are on the way to Florida — notably Rao’s and Pastis — and Chicago’s Lettuce Entertain You just opened its first Miami area restaurant — Aba at the Bal Harbour Shops.
The key to succeeding in Miami, it seems, is simple: Bring the menu and cuisine you’re known for down here — don’t pander to us with a “Miamified” menu. And be prepared to be a part of the community. In return, Miami will welcome you into our culture. After all, Miami is known to many as the “sixth borough”, which means we’ve always been intertwined and always will be.