Carboni’s has plans to serve fresh pasta with old world charm

Frank Carney stands in the space that will become his future restaurant. It isn’t much to look at now, but once construction is complete the restaurant will have a bar, a marketplace with local products and a windowed kitchen.

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When Frank Carney had only a matter of weeks to come up with a pitch for the restaurant that would occupy the first floor of Hotel Winters, he didn’t panic.

“I had it in my head immediately that I would do Italian food,” Carney said. It had been a dream of his for ages. Carney says that he practically grew up in the kitchens of his grandfather’s two restaurants: One Italian, the other a steakhouse.

Knowing that a second steakhouse wouldn’t fly in Winters, Carney was happy to settle on Italian, which happens to be his favorite cuisine to cook at home.

So how did “Carney” become Carboni’s? Carney made a play on his family name and his childhood nickname to come up with an authentic sounding Italian name.

“Back in the day I used to be a really skinny kid,” Carney said. Due to his slight frame, a cousin granted Carney the nickname “Bones,” and it stuck.

Carney has worked in the restaurant industry in Sacramento for the last two decades, give or take. He started in Rio City Cafe, worked in Thunder Valley Casino’s Steakhouse and went on to Firehouse in Old Sacramento. He came to Winters in 2014 as the operations manager for the Buckhorn.

Carney envisions the future Carboni’s as  an approachable restaurant with a touch of old world charm. He turned to local interior designer Carla Avila, who owns the store Avila Winters in downtown Woodland, to help create that aesthetic.

“I’m glad that we’re working with someone local too, who is actually going to be part of the hotel,” Carney says. Avila will be opening her own retail space on the first floor of the hotel.

As for the aesthetic that he and Avila are creating: “I want it to be very welcoming, but I also want it to be a little step up and to showcase Winters,” Carney said. He explained that he didn’t want it to look like an over-the-top “opulent” hotel restaurant. He wanted to design something more approachable. Carney doesn’t want Carboni’s to feel like a pricey, “only for a special occasion” restaurants.

White washed brick walls will be accented with darker floors, and dark accents along the bar cutting down the middle of the restaurant. The centrally located kitchen will be partitioned from the diners by large windows.

Inside that kitchen staff will be preparing fresh pasta and a variety of Italian dishes on a long double sided workstation. Those sitting on the other side of the windows will be able to watch their meals go from the stove, to the plate, out the door and to their table.

The kitchen itself is larger than the average restaurant’s. That’s because it will be serving all of the food and beverage needs of Hotel Winters, including those of the rooftop bar and the banquet hall.

Up on the rooftop bar guests will be able to order from a limited menu of items cooked in the restaurant kitchen. From there they can look down into the courtyard, where an outdoor wood fired pizza oven and grill will help take the heat off the restaurant kitchen when the dinner rush is hitting and a 250 person wedding is in the banquet hall.

Events in the banquet hall will have special menu packages to choose from, while things in the restaurant will stay on a fairly normal schedule. Plans haven’t been set in stone yet, but Carney has been consulting with a former professional chef to design the menus and recipes that will define Carboni’s.

Right now, Carney envisions counter service for breakfast and lunch during the day, followed by full service dinner in the evenings.

The banquet menus and wedding packages (which will begin next year) will feature different menu levels. Right now they are already taking bookings for wedding blocks, catering to those people who are getting married at local venues like Park Winters and Field and Pond. Once the hotel opens, Carney says, those wedding guests won’t have to find hotels in Davis or Woodland. Hotel Winters and Carboni’s will be able to arrange welcoming parties, rehearsal dinners and departure brunches.

For the corporate crowd holding weekday meetings in one of the smaller banquet rooms, Carney has planned a small marketplace between the restaurant and the hotel lobby. There people will be able to purchase grab-and-go lunches, Italian style coffees and products made by Winters merchants.

When Carboni’s finally opens, Carney plans to be very hands-on. He plans to take on shifts at the restaurant and plate for events. He says that he can’t just step away from the process.

“Long days,” Carney said of life in the restaurant industry, “but they’re fun.”

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