|504 E. 5th St.
Austin, TX 78701
Carmelo’s has a retro Little Italy vibe to it that one simply doesn’t see in central Texas restaurants these days. Take for example their classic tradition of table-side preparation. I’m very fond of the Carbonara, done as you take notice with fettuccine noodles, speck, Parmagiano, pecorino and tossed in a light cream sauce. It’s a nice way to impress a date, and the flavor is entirely satisfactory. They also do a classic Steak Dianne here which is a Filet Mignon sauteed in a melange of garlic, butter, and onions and brandy with once again, fettuccine. In unskilled hands, this could be problematic, but the servers at Carmelo’s have it down.
The appetizers have an old school feel to them, and that’s fine with me. Try the Lumache Mauro which is a simple escargot baked in butter with a shade of garlic. Lovely flavors. And talk about a dish with lineage, how about the Arancini which dates back to 10th century Sicily. These are baked rice balls stuffed with meat, sauce and peas. There is a similarity to Suppli, but those are stuffed with cheese. And the Cozze is another recommendation: mussels simmered in a delicate broth of white wine and garlic. The accompanying garlic bread works well with this accommodating dish.
The entrees are filling at Carmelo’s as both the pasta and meat/fish dishes shine with authenticity. I very much enjoy the Penne della Casa which features an unusual mix of crab claws and sage butter along with diced oyster mushrooms. This preparation calls for the pasta to be absolutely al dente, and ours has been on both occasions. Nice flavors as well. The Grilled Veal Tenderloin is another crowd pleaser. The tenderness of the veal dominates first impressions, and then the flavor of the Marsala wine sauce kicks in. The Branzano Siciliano is a dish that appealingly mixes broiled striped sea bass and a thoughtfully prepared sweet pea risotto with a killer sauce. Texture is the key here and they mostly nail it! And you simply must try the Sogliola: a sauteed Dover Sole with lemon juice and an unrelenting and wonderfully mellow flavor. The accompanying roast potatoes are just perfect.
Because Carmelo’s has been around for awhile it doesn’t diminish the beautiful things that emerge from the kitchen. Heck, look at Sophia Loren!