Carmine’s – Go For The Food Not The Service

425 7th Street NW
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I’ve never been to Carmine’s prior to this week because I’ve always thought it would be very touristy. Italian themed façade and interiors coupled with the Chinatown location. For me it may as well have been a ‘do not enter’ sign on the door. Well at the request of AP who was in the mood for a traditional Chicken Parmesan I figured we’d give it a try.
This restaurant is very large and must get loud and busy but we arrived a little before 5pm and it was barely 10 folks there. The theme is family size portions so it was a challenge for AP and I to make an order that would not result in huge leftovers so we decided to sit at the bar.
There is a short happy hour drink list that includes frozen margaritas which seemed to be very popular, nosh and bar portions of select menu items. All menu items  do not come in bar portions and you will be required to get family size which feeds up to 4 people. So if you are not hanging with Fat Albert or solo you may have somewhat of a dilemma or a lot of left overs. 
Okay the bad news first, we were not happy with the staff here. AP is only 20 years old and he immediately mentioned that the waiters didn’t offer us water and didn’t communicate the menu well enough (initially we sat in the main dining area before moving to the bar). He noticed that the table wobbled and also a few pieces of empty sweet n low wrappers on the floor by his chair. Then later at the bar the bartender barely allowed me to finish my sentences before she began to talk to me in her (as if she needed to attend to something except there were only 5 of us at the bar) monotone voice….how charming. This and a few other incidents caused me to come to the conclusion that this establishment is not exactly vested in a community of repeat customers but rather sees its patrons as those passing through for a Capitols or Wizards game I guess. It’s also located about a 10 minute walk from the national mall so they probably see lots of tourists.
 
Now the good news, the pasta was actually very good. I had the spaghetti and meatballs and AP had his Chicken Parmesan. This is a great place for traditional Italian dishes and groups. Nothing pretentious just traditional fare that even kids would enjoy.
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The meatballs are massive and the pasta prepared just right. The sauce was thick and full of tomatoes seasoned just right …take a look at the pic below. I didn’t get a pic of the chicken since it was not especially photogenic.
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For some folks service is not so important and if this is the case for you, keep your expectations low and  you should be very satisfied here because the food is not bad.  If you are looking for someplace special then you may want to keep walking because there is nothing special about Carmine’s and I am not sure their goal involves providing anything above what they currently offer.
 
To get here take the metro green line to Archives or the red line to Gallery Place.