by Deborah Hansen
It’s no wonder the staff T-shirts proclaim that Carmine’s Pie House is “Neighborhood Friendly and Mother Approved.” The place was packed recently on the Tuesday Trivia night our party visited, and the food definitely got the stamp of approval from the mom who was with us.
A newcomer to the Riverside area, at 2677 Forbes Street, Carmine’s has quickly gained a reputation for Chicago-style pizza along with quirky entrees like Easy Peasy Tortellini and Lobster Mac-n-Cheese. The outdoor patio was full, but we waited only a few minutes for a table to be cleared inside. The wait staff was attentive and obviously didn’t like it that we had to wait at all.
Our first course, the Monster Meatball appetizer, was huge and sat in a bowl of “The Sauce,” a secret family recipe served with melted mozzarella. There was plenty for everyone to share. Other appetizers include Jumbo Rooster Wings, fried calamari, Down and Dirty Fries, and Ja-Lap-Pen-Os and run from $4.97 to $6.97.
Our table next tried the Purple Pharm, a fresh eggplant sub dipped in egg and fried. This was also covered in “The Sauce.” Although not everyone present liked eggplant, the person who ordered it said it was fried perfectly without the fried flavor overpowering the taste of the dish. The menu also includes favorites like NYC Cheese Steak; Bird in Da Bread, a fried chicken breast sub; and Capone’s Chicago Beef sub that offers sliced beef soaked in a 100-year-old recipe of “The Juice.” Subs and Paninis are priced at $7.27.
Since pizza is the specialty of the house, we tried a slice of the thin topped with mushrooms and black olives. The crust was flaky without being too chewy, and the toppings were plentiful and fresh. The Chicago Stuffed Pizza Pie at 10” serves 2-3 people, and gourmet toppings are offered, including eggplant, grilled chicken, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes among others. You’ll have plenty of time for appetizers because the stuffed pizza takes 25-30 minutes to cook, but at least it should be fresh and hot. There are 10 specialty pies, like the Boca Raton White, The Pineapple Express, The Bad Ass BLT, and the Humble Hummus. Thin pizzas are available by the slice ($2.27) or between 10” and 16” whole, with other pie prices up to $20.
The highlight of the meal, though, was the Lobster Mac-n-Cheese. The lobster chunks nestled in a huge bowl of baked al dente pasta, covered with Marney’s Creamy Cheese Sauce. The menu proclaims this dish “Feel Good Comfort Food,” and it certainly was. We all shared the serving and there was still enough left to take home. The rest of the entrée menu includes favorites like Done Right Manicotti, Mimi’s Original Lasagna, Uncle Alfredo’s Alfredo, and Spaghetti with Huge Meatballs and Gravy. Dinner is available after 5 pm and all day Sunday, with prices ranging from $11.97 to $13.97. Salads, calzone and stromboli are available too. Hot garlic bread is brought to the table as part of every meal.
Desserts are offered, although they are not on the menu. We tried the crème brûlée, which was a large portion of the confection, although it reminded us more of flan since it didn’t have the hard crust of brûlée. The consistency was creamy and rich, and there was enough for all of us. Other desserts are made daily, so check the offerings on your way in. All are $3.97.
The neighborhood seems to love it and the mom with us approved. Carmine’s Pie House is a great addition to the Riverside area and is certainly worth a longer drive from the rest of Jacksonville too. www.carminespiehouse.com
Carmine's Pie House
by Deborah Hansen