Best Of

Best Restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen/Theater District

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As a New Yorker, you naturally want to spend as little time in this part of the city as humanly possible. But every now and then, the unfortunate confluence of visiting relatives and a can’t-miss show on Broadway requires you to infiltrate the mouth-breathing throngs of selfie-stickers and fanny-packers in the theater district. Alas, all is not lost. One cursory glance into Carmine’s might well lead to an unfair assessment — that the place is an Italian-American theme park, not an authentic eatery. But, surprisingly, the two-decades-old institution consistently delivers preposterous portions of crave-worthy fare. It’s loud, often hectic, and there’s nothing fancy about it. The upside is that you get some of the best meatballs, chicken parm, and tiramisu available in midtown Manhattan. There’s free focaccia and sesame seed breadsticks, enough for days. And Carmine’s prepares at least two dishes that no one else in the city fully replicates: the porterhouse contadina, wherein a supernatural slab of beef shares the stage with spicy Italian sausage, roasted potatoes, and grilled bell peppers; and scarpariello chicken wings — buffalo wings reimagined with Italian flair. The family-style plating makes it possible for big groups to dine at reasonable prices; a half-dozen diners can suffer a collective food coma for around $50 a head, all in. Even as the restaurant expands its brand up and down the Eastern Seaboard, it resists the descent into becoming a glorified Olive Garden, remaining a real outpost in the city’s shrine to artifice. So the next time Uncle Don and Aunt Phyllis show up demanding a tour of Times Square, don’t fret. A silver lining of sausage and scarpariello awaits. 200 West 44th Street, Manhattan 10036, 212-221-3800, carminesnyc.com

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