Jeff Bank, CEO of Alicart Restaurant Group, expects customers to party like it’s 2019 when Broadway returns and his Times Square location of Carmine’s Italian Restaurant reopens today after an 18-month pandemic hiatus.
“There’s not a safer place to eat these days than New York City. All our employees and every guest has to show proof of vaccination,” Bank said.
Carmine’s in Times Square is 13,000 square feet and has 450 seats—not the largest of the six restaurants in the brand but the highest in sales volume and traffic. It landed in the No. 1 spot in Restaurant Business’ 2020 ranking of the Top 100 Independents, based on 2019 figures, and is a major tourist draw.
The restaurant is known for its heaping portions of Southern Italian specialties, including chicken or eggplant parmigiana, lasagna, ravioli, house-made meatballs and more, all served family-style. Typical table size is six to eight guests, and everyone digs in and shares.
That menu and service style is continuing, said Bank, since “this is the way it should be. We haven’t added a new item in 30 years,” said Bank. “And people are so happy to celebrate and share food.”
Before the restaurant reopened, reservations were booked days ahead, he said, but he is taking his time to fully ramp up.
Operating hours are slightly reduced for now. The restaurant is closed on Mondays, with dinner served Tuesday through Sunday. Lunch is limited to Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Bank expects to open again on Mondays in four to six weeks and to be operating on a full schedule by November.
Carmine’s Times Square also eliminated daily specials until everything gets back up to speed. “When you haven’t eaten here in 547 days, everything seems special,” Bank said.
Although Alicart is facing the same supply challenges as others in the industry and paying more for ingredients, Carmine’s is not currently raising menu prices.
“The goal is to get everyone and everything back up to speed,” said Bank.