A twist on traditional Italian dishes

Head Chef Dan Nguyen Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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Lasagna, chicken cacciatore, pasta alla carbonara—all iconic Italian dishes one may expect to see on the menu of an Italian restaurant.

However, Carboni’s Ristorante Head Chef Dan Nguyen doesn’t want to just be “another Italian restaurant” cliche. Using authentic techniques and theory he learned as an exchange culinary student in Italy, Nguyen is offering patrons a fun twist on Italian cuisine.

“I think a lot of people are afraid to be different,” Nguyen said. “I know a lot of my food isn’t typical, but the history, culture and techniques are there.”

Nguyen crafted two different experiences when creating the menus for Carboni’s and the Abbey Rooftop Lounge. 

His vision for the Rooftop Lounge was to bring comfort and a menu that can be both served quickly and enjoyed at a guest’s leisure. Most of the items are a unique spin on snack-like foods or comfort dishes one might find available at a lounge or bar.

One Rooftop Lounge notable is the Mortadella e Formaggio Panino. With melted cheddar and fontina cheeses combined with heirloom tomatoes, aged balsamic and mortadella is a play off of one of Nguyen’s childhood favorite dishes.

“To me that is perfect lounge food. It’s still heart even though it’s a simple item,” he said.

Nguyen said this specific dish is also one of the menu items that he created together with his staff. Part of the vision he brings to his kitchen team is to not just lead them, but to also create a family culture in the back of house and to collaborate on creativity.

This collaboration can be seen on Carboni’s menu in the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese.

When Nguyen first came to Carboni’s as the sous chef in January 2020, he worked with the previous chef to create this dish.

“I have not changed it since. It’s been an original item since we’ve been here,” Nguyen said. “It’s very comforting. It’s so full and rich. I hope anyone who eats it–it reminds them of home.”

Nguyen plans to keep it as a Carboni’s staple so that both regulars and out of town visitors will be able to have it when they plan to enjoy an intimate dinner at the restaurant.

While he understands the importance of having menu items that are always available, he also wants to keep the options fun and continue to help his team grow their skills with new techniques and knowledge through a variety of dishes. With the seasons changing, Nguyen has new dishes on the way to compliment the fresh, local seasonal produce.

Once a quarter for each season, a handful of new dishes will make a debut to reflect seasonal produce, and compliment the changing weather. A sneak peek of the fall menu includes lamb shanks, squash, and root vegetables. 

Nguyen says what a lot of restaurants miss is crafting delicious food options for the large percentage of vegetarians and vegans. He said he wants to curate a lot of fun and delicious things to eat, not just offer a salad and a bowl of vegetables.

“I want to maximize the flavor of food at its peak. In order to do that you have to make changes often,” Nguyen said.

Currently Carboni’s and the Rooftop Lounge are offering outside seating for guests. They’re also offering a little mid-week fun with Carboni’s Wine Down Wednesday out in their courtyard from 4-7 p.m. Each Wednesday, with the purchase of a meal, guests can taste a glass from the featured winery. Previous guest wineries have included Turkovich Family Wines and Matchbook Wine Company.

For a listing of restaurant hours, to view the menus, or to make a reservation visit https://carboniswinters.com/.

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