Shrimp scampi is my mom’s go-to dish if she’s eating at a new restaurant and doesn’t know what quality the food will be. Shrimp scampi becomes her mark of distinction for a good restaurant: if you make it to her liking, then chances are she’ll visit again…and probably get the same thing. Comprised of grilled or steamed shrimp in a garlic butter sauce, shrimp scampi is an Italian-American staple that wins a lot of picky eaters over to trying seafood. (I mean, you put anything in a garlic and butter sauce, I’ll probably eat it.) Typically served with rice or angel hair pasta, shrimp “scampi” is a classic Italian-American dish that has the potential to be very mediocre–think Olive Garden fare–and can also be a great culinary delight.
And you find that culinary delight in some of the most surprising restaurants. Just a few blocks from the aforementioned Olive Garden, Carmine’s is a family-style Italian American eatery that’s become a huge tourist attraction for pre-theater dinners. Tourists are attracted by the sumptuous decor and the old-time atmosphere, so reminiscent of Sardi’s; but the interesting thing is that Carmine’s in Times Square has only been around twenty years. Don’t let the crowds fool you: this is no New York version of Olive Garden. The Italian menu here is accessible yet expertly executed, from their plump ravioli to their tiramisu, and yes, even shrimp scampi. The plates here are expensive but massive: perfect for a large group of people ordering a few dishes and sharing among the table. The shrimp scampi itself is buttery and rich, served over angel hair or linguine, and will definitely leave you satisfied. Just don’t be too satisfied to leave you without any room for dessert!
200 W 44th St (between Shubert Aly & 8th Ave)
“Best, Carmine’s cooking is primal and adept. Shrimp scampi is a veritable school of plump crustaceans dusted with bread crumbs and broiled with scads of butter, garlic, and clam juice. Ravioli are formidable rectangular pasta pillows puffed up with creamy ricotta cheese and doused with ragù. This place reminds you that red sauce, garlic, and good times will never go out of style.”–New York Magazine
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“OMG I’ve been dreaming about that shrimp scampi ever since! We came for a family dinner to celebrate my cousin’s graduation from Columbia. She chose the menu: salad, shrimp scampi with angel hair, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken with the lemon and butter sauce, broccoli. I have no complaints. We also got a bottle of moscato d’asti for the table. Everything was so good! The service was quick, the servers were polite and the prices were reasonable and worth every penny!”–Nicole C.
“Had lunch at Carmine’s. We had a Caesar salad, sausage and linguine and shrimp scampi served family style for a party of five. The portions where huge. We were able to finish the salad and shrimp and most of the pasta. Pasta was cooked perfect and coincidently came with 5 pieces of sausage. I would suggest this place.”–Dee S.
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