Nashville’s trendy neighborhood, the Gulch, didn’t have a main attraction beyond Station Inn, which opened in 1974, until 2012, when the Music City’s food scene saw staggering growth. Well before construction cranes outnumbered the actual buildings comprising an ever-expanding skyline, chef Andrew Carmellini began his career at two-Michelin-star San Domenico in Emilia-Romagna, Italy in 1990, where he honed his craft using indigenous ingredients.
Now, Carmellini joins Luke Ostrom and Josh Pickard (NoHo Hospitality), who opened the Dutch last month — staking a claim on the north side of W Nashville’s prime street-level location within The Gulch. On Friday, November 12, the NoHo team will open Carne Mare, an Italian chophouse on the south side of W Nashville that opened its New York location earlier this year. The restaurant will offer old-school Italian steakhouse vibes in contrast to neighbor the Dutch’s brighter bistro, both within earshot of one of Nashville’s most iconic listening rooms, the Station Inn.
“We’ve been amazed by the reception of The Dutch and we’re looking forward to opening a second restaurant that’s totally different but just as exciting,” says Carmellini, “Carne Mare is intended to be a night out.”
Opening for dinner Wednesday through Sunday to start, (with plans to serve Monday and Tuesday in the near future) the menu’s hand-selected cuts of steak, fine seafood, and Italian specialties include first bites like oysters on the half shell and greens like the tableside farmer’s salad made for up to six people, or the house “wedgini” salad made with gorgonzola dolce, tomato, and pancetta dressing. A selection of chophouse snacks, like spicy crab lettuce cups with Italian chili crisp and octopus carpaccio with sweet drop peppers and crispy pepperoni, may follow. Made-to-share sides include cacio e pepe honeynut squash, fire-roasted cabbage, and mushroom marsala, while the dessert menu is grounded by a 17-layer chocolate espresso cake and baked spumoni for two, flambéed tableside.
Still, it’s the steaks here that steal the show. Carmellini’s team prepares the various cuts with an array of techniques. For example, the 16-ounce prime rib is roasted in a porchetta-spiced rub for 12 hours, whereas the 40-ounce tomahawk uses open fire to coax more flavor. Also of note among the embers is the 45-ounce dry-aged porterhouse in the style of Bistecca Fiorentina — a Tuscan technique by which the steak is served with a charred outside, and only a slightly warm inside so as not to affect the natural flavors of the beef.
The bar program features an approachable, yet extensive wine list, largely focusing on Italy’s indigenous varietals along with North American and French wines. Local and imported beers, Italian aperitifs, and cocktails, some of which are finished tableside, offer pairings for most any palate.
New York City-based architecture and design firm Rockwell Group led the restaurant’s design, which is inspired by an old-world trattoria and expressed through a contemporary lens. “Our artwork was carefully sourced from Eaton Fine Art. Much of the styling was carefully sourced from local shops around Nashville — something we did for both The Dutch and Carne Mare,” Ostrom says. “Nashville is full of antique shops and boutiques tucked away in unexpected places, and we had fun looking for these unique finds to add character to our restaurants.”
From the moment guests open the front door punctuated by custom-designed brass bull horns as the door pulls, there’s a feeling that this isn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill experience. “They were a signature piece designed at the original location in NYC by Martin Brudnizki, and we were inspired to bring them to Nashville as well,” says Ostrom.
A barrel-vault ceiling over the main 84-person dining room balances warm and inviting design details such as rich walnut millwork, brass accents, and leather banquettes where one might envision milestone celebrations. The main dining room opens up to a 40-person heated outdoor patio banked by a hedge of seasonal plants.
The bar room, set apart by a black, gray, and white mosaic tile floor, offers banquette seating and 13 leather barstools at the large, wood-paneled bar with a striking green quartz counter. A private dining room, which seats 22 around its large walnut table, is also available upon reservation.
The NoHo team readily admits that they aren’t from around here, but are quickly feeling the warm welcome from their new friends and neighbors. In due time, Carne Mare is set to tip its hat kindly to extravagant favorites from Nashville’s past, like Mario’s, or even The Wild Boar, where record deals were signed, legends were born, and memories were made.