Carbone’s, a week-old Italian restaurant, is already turning into a neighborhood destination for Park Cities residents eager to try Julian Barsotti’s interpretation of Italian-American food. Customers have been trickling into this part-grocery store, part-deli in a steady stream ever since Barsotti’s grand opening last Tuesday, keeping his staff on its toes. “It’s been very busy. I didn’t anticipate being this busy right off the bat,” says Barsotti.
When I visited Carbone’s on Wednesday, it was 1 PM and all the tables (save two, maybe) were taken. Barsotti was crouched down next to an elderly couple, easy to spot in his Adidas shoes and red plaid shorts, and probably on the receiving end of the couple’s congratulations for the elegant layout of his store.
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Family photos of Julian’s maternal side adorn the same wall that sells American wine by the bottle and by the glass. To the right is a small section where you can buy dried penne pasta in sealed brown bags, Louisiana hot sauce, and olive salad in jars. Big glass windows cover the front of Carbone’s, letting natural light bathe the simple wooden tables and chairs in warm April sunshine. A small cactus plant spruced up the table where I munched on my Italian combo hero (mortadella, soppressata, and coppa meats with light vinaigrette, fresh onion, and chopped lettuce). It came with a side of crispy homemade potato chips (you can order a side of salad greens if you prefer), but I was a tad disappointed that the meatball shortage that day meant, well, no meatball hero for me.
At that point, the DMN hadn’t written a word about Julian’s meatballs yet, and Julian had only figured out his meatballs were popular because he was running out of them so quickly.
“I didn’t anticipate the demand being that high,” Barsotti admits, “But we’re going to up our amount, for sure.” This means more labor for Julian since grinding the meat from a Berkshire pork shoulder in-house is a long, drawn-out process. But this isn’t the only change that Julian will be making to his menu. For one thing, the bread he was using for his heroes is going to go. Though the bread was dense and perfect for dipping into olive oil, it was too tough for the likes of a lunchtime sandwich. Something lighter will take its place, but Julian isn’t sure what it will be yet. The potato chips might make an exit as well, although I’m firmly opposed to this consideration. Those salty chips with the slightly burned edges beat the pants off bagged potato chips from any source. The fact that my leftover chips were still crunchy and relatively unaltered after three hours in my stuffy car means they’re champions. Chip champions.
“My motto is to evolve and improve,” says Barsotti. He aims to be as hospitable as possible to every customer who walks through the door. Before Carbone’s had even opened, two teenage boys came in asking for a glass of water. Julian walked to the back for the glasses and came back to find his phone and the kids both gone. Not only does that explain why Barsotti wasn’t answering my photographer’s texts and phone calls, this incident also explains what Carbone’s is all about: a neighborhood place where residents can flock and rest assured that Julian Barsotti will most certainly care for them. Even if that means losing his phone again.