Mario Carbone has only returned home once since he came to town to open three restaurants in quick succession. It’s not a new idea for him to spend a month in a hotel, but he appreciates southern hospitality in Dallas which he says is different from anywhere else. Eater sat down with Carbone again, this time at Vino’s indoor-outdoor patio in Dallas’ Design District.
“Carbone is a week old and we are starting to wear it a bit, like a new pair of shoes. We are beginning to understand. Get our sea legs. Tonight is our first night here, but we’re building our new home,” he says.
Vino is the first of its kind among the concepts of the Major Food Groups; a whole restaurant and a wine cellar that mingle with the Carbone next door. Unlike Carbone’s big plates and bold decor, Vino has a lighter, airier outdoor space, with striped awnings and a distinctive gelato cart. To add to designer Ken Fulk’s distinctive Vino design, Mario Carbone brought 200-year-old oil paintings in their original frames by unknown Italian artists to hang on the walls for instant old-world appeal.
Those who remember the wheel-like crank and garage door windows from the previous iteration of the Wheelhouse building might recognize them from Vino, but everything else is completely different, making the space virtually unrecognizable. As for getting a reservation, Carbone says a good number of seats here are accessible only.
The idea that guests, wine and staff will float between the two concepts is entirely by design. “I plan for guests, before their Carbone meals, to come here for an appetizer and then come back for a digestive when they’re stuffed and want an Amaro.” This flow has always been Mario Carbone’s plan. “They need each other,” he said of the two restaurants.
“You close your eyes a bit and imagine it, but to see it happen, the coming and going of sommeliers, bottles and guests… the energy exchange with everyone listening to the same music… and once it’s full, just the buzz of people, I look forward to it,” he says.
The Carbone wine list exists entirely on the Vino side, “we have a wine list of around a thousand bottles”. The main offer will be the wines of quarto, which is about a glass and a half, allowing customers to try many wines. Customers can serve their wines with their menu, with help from staff when needed, and the idea is that people can try new wines without committing to an entire bottle.
Menu-wise, Vino is “truly a child of Carbone,” serving Carbone’s three most popular dishes: Caesar a la ZZ, spicy vodka rigatoni and veal parmesan. Otherwise, the Vino menu is completely unique, with a lot more flexibility than the more assertive menu next door. Vino customers can expect seasonal menu changes, daily ravioli and pizza, and other specials. According to Carbone, “This style of restoration is moving. It’s not stagnant.
The Vino menu offers antipasti, which range from $18 for whipped ricotta with toast, to $32 for spicy Manhattan clams. Unique salads, pizzas and sharing plates AKA “Misti, Mista, Misto” in varieties of salumi crudos, vegetables and seafood range from $22 to $36. As for main dishes, highlights include the famous rigatoni; a thinly sliced 12oz Ribeye Tagliata with balsamic vinegar, parmesan and artichoke; and a Rosemary Garlic Bisteca Fiorentina, also known as aa 48 oz. porter or “the official steak of Florence”.
A whole steamed “Mulberry Style” lobster is topped with Chinese-spiced Italian sausages, paying homage to New York’s famous Mulberry Street, which connects Manhattan’s Little Italy and Chinatown.
And for dessert? “We make a lot of ice cream here,” says Carbone. “The one I wish everyone had is a vanilla sundae.” As theatrical as one would expect from a Major Food Group concept, the dessert begins with an intimidating serving of vanilla soft serve, with crushed almonds and Italian maraschino cherries in syrup served on top, delivered by trolley.
Vino also offers Italian zeppolewhere the waiter lays a sheet of branded paper on the table, then sprinkles powdered sugar from a box, “and just throws it on the table,” Carbone explains.
The beginnings of Major Food Group in Dallas are well launched. “We had an excellent reception, general enthusiasm both from people in the industry who want to work and from customers. I feel welcome, with open arms in Dallas,” he said.
Wine is located at 1617 Hi Line Drive, Suite 390 (right next to Carbone). Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.