Mario Carbone’s Favorite Celebrity Guest Revealed: Details

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You may have heard of Carbone — one of the most well-known Italian restaurants in New York City — as it provides the ultimate dining experience with exquisite food and ambiance and is constantly filled with celebrities. Carbone and the rest of Major Food Group restaurants have become a beaming success over the years with locations all around the world, all thanks to Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick.

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Mario was born and raised in Queens, New York, and has an unwavering passion for food. He started his career working at local eateries, as he simultaneously earned a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. After he graduated, the chef went on to gain experience at different establishments, such as the New York City trailblazers Babbo and Lupa; La Dogana, a small, family-run restaurant in Tuscany; and Café Boulud, a classic French restaurant.

When Mario was working at Café Boulud, he reconnected with an old friend from culinary school Rich Torrisi. Together, they created Torrisi Italian Specialities in 2009. This small Little Italy restaurant was a booming success and when an enthusiastic regular Jeff Zalaznick became a partner, Major Food Group was born.

Since then, Major Food Group has skyrocketed in popularity, with over 40 highly acclaimed restaurants around the world, including Carbone, which redefined the concept of Italian restaurants worldwide. Carbone’s original location is in New York City, but there are now four other locations: Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Miami and Dallas.

Major Food Groups has been awarded a total of 21 stars from The New York Times as well as several recognitions from the James Beard Foundation and other print publications.

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Although the three business partners are collaborative, Mario has mostly taken over the creative direction, choosing the music and wardrobe, overseeing the graphic design and more.

Keep scrolling to find out how Mario Carbone discovered Carbone’s secret to success, his favorite celebrity visitor and the creative process behind the scenes.

Us: It seems Major Food Group has a special touch when it comes to creating incredible dining experiences. What is the secret to Major Food Groups’ success?

Mario Carbone: We give our guests more than just dinner – we give them an ultimate night out – something that can’t be replicated if it were delivered to them sitting in their pajamas on the couch. This is more than that. We’re here to entertain and we truly love that part of the business. We’re storytellers and entertainers and we want people to come in to enjoy dinner and a show. That’s who we are and what we do – and thankfully, throughout the years, people have gravitated toward that.

Us: Your namesake brand, Carbone, has been a favorite since it opened 10 years ago in NY. Since then, you have expanded but the demand and getting a reservation still seems to be one of the hardest to get in every city you are in. What makes Carbone so special?

Carbone: Our goal with Carbone is to give the customer a nostalgic experience and to deliver the very best version of that experience. We look to bring our guests the finest version of something that is very familiar, especially in New York. We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel, just to build the nicest wheel possible and that’s been our calling card.

Us: Speaking of Carbone, you guys put on Carbone Beach for Miami Beach last year and it was the event of Miami race week. How did the idea come about? 

Carbone: We knew that the weekend was coming up and we were talking internally about what we could do to amplify that to meet the magnitude of the weekend, being that this would be a historic moment for Miami. Miami is a pillar for us as a company now and we wanted to do something that would meet the level the weekend was calling for.

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Us: You just announced you are bringing the event back this year, what can guests expect? How can you top last year’s already incredible event? 

Carbone: By learning from the first event and building on that to create a sort of mecca for over-the-top that continues to go even bigger.

Us: How do you deliver the Carbone experience from a food perspective at an event this size? 

Carbone: The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice. We’re lucky to have a very seasoned team that knows how to deliver this experience with military precision, regardless of whether they’re in their own kitchen or standing on the sands of South Beach. We’ve got the best team in the business.

Us: You pretty much have had every celebrity in the world dine at your restaurants. Have you ever been star-struck or had a moment where you couldn’t believe that this person is a fan of your food/restaurant?

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Carbone: Tony Bennett. Years ago, he came into our very first restaurant. He was a tie to a generation that I wasn’t around for, but that was so significant to the culture and the first time I got to cook for him was an amazing moment.

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