Mario Carbone’s Guide to Eating Incredibly Well In NYC

Courtesy Major Food Group

The Queens-born chef knows the best restaurants in New York City, both old and new.

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It’s difficult to imagine the New York City restaurant landscape without Major Food Group. Between Sadelle’s, Carbone, Parm, and The Grill, Major Food owns some of the city’s most beloved eateries. So we caught up with New York City native Mario Carbone, an American Express Global Dining Collection partner, managing partner at MFG and James Beard Award-nominated chef, about his favorite places to eat in New York City and beyond.

Carbone is no stranger to New York’s food scene. Born and raised in Queens, he’s spent the majority of his life living, cooking, and, of course, eating around town. So we asked him about the quintessential NYC restaurants any real New Yorker or out-of-towner should try.  

“The places I recommend to people are sort of the classics...the places that are part of the fabric of New York,” he told me. First is the original Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs on Coney Island, and 21 Club, albeit an entirely different type of classic establishment. “I think places like 21 Club are sometimes forgotten as far as the old midtown dining scene goes,” he said. He also highlighted Joe’s Pizza on Bleecker Street. “Walking down the street with a slice of Joe’s is just one of those quintessential New York things.”

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While he’s constantly surrounded by food, especially in his own restaurants, Carbone admits he doesn’t eat out much these days. Still, he can easily imagine the perfect food-filled day in the city. “This is putting calories aside,” he said with a chuckle. First up: An iced red eye at La Colombe. “It’s my favorite coffee to start the day off with. Next, he’d move on to a bagel with cream cheese and house-cured salmon at Sadelle’s, Major Food’s buzzy SoHo brunch spot where classic Jewish appetizing is turned into a decadent feast for the eyes and the stomach.

For lunch, he’d head to Father Demo Square where Bleecker Street meets Sixth Avenue for an Italian hero at Fiacco’s Italian Specialties. “It’s got all the works. It’s ridiculous. You can only possibly eat half of it,” he explained. Next up: Caffe Dante for a sunset-type aperitivo or negroni, followed by a trip to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn for dinner. “I’d go see Mark Lacono at Lucali and force him to make me a calzone. Not that the pizza isn’t great, but the calzone is the best in the world,” he added. He’d end the night with an amaro at Santina. “You’re going to need a digestif after all that,” he added.

While New York’s food scene is constantly changing and new restaurants are always popping up in different neighborhoods, Carbone is particularly excited about Hudson Yards. “I think [Mercado Little Spain] is really pretty great and what Jose Andres has done there is awesome. You can spend an entire day there, just at the mercado,” he said. He also nodded to his good friend, David Chang. “What Chang did at Kawi is awesome, and his [Peach Mart] next door is really cute for grab-and-go,” he added.

Already fully immersed in New York’s restaurant scene, I asked Carbone if he has any other big plans for the city or beyond. We’re definitely setting our sights outside of the city walls...we’d love to branch out,” he told me, calling out Los Angeles and London as two cities where you’ll be seeing Major Food Group in the not-so-distant future. As for the time being, Carbone is doing what he loves, spending time at his beach house in Montauk, fishing, visiting the local vegetable stand, and cooking up his local catch. “I love cooking out there. I find it really peaceful and super inspiring.”