Northern transplants that have grown to love the innovative concepts by New York–based Major Food Group can sing praise with the group’s recent expansion south. The global restaurant company behind eateries such as Sadelle’s, The Lobster Club, Dirty French, and ZZ’s Clam Bar in New York City made its way to Miami Beach in January, launching the fourth location of its Michelin-starred Italian eatery Carbone, famed for its legendary spicy rigatoni with vodka sauce. Led by a trio of friends—chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi and entrepreneur Jeff Zalaznick—Major Food Group currently operates 27 concepts.
This successful collaboration began with the ingenuity and culinary expertise of Carbone and Torrisi, who attended culinary school together in1998. After stints in Europe and kitchens across the country, the Culinary Institute of America alumni crossed paths again in 2003 while working together at Café Boulud on the Upper East Side. They eventually became roommates, and in 2009 teamed up and opened a place of their own: Torrisi Italian Specialties, an 18-seat eatery in Little Italy. Sandwich shop by day, prix-fixe restaurant by night, Torrisi’s rotating menu and unique ambience attracted a loyal following, including former banker and hospitality veteran Jeff Zalaznick. He eventually joined the duo, and together they formed Major Food Group. This partnership led to a second restaurant, the casual “red-sauce” spot Parm.
In 2013, the three New Yorkers set their minds on a fine-dining project and opened Carbone, resulting in—among other accolades—James Beard Award nominations. The brand has since flourished and evolved into an ever-growing empire of concepts with imaginative decor, meticulous service, and new riffs on well-known dishes.
“The common vision is creating something that we would want to enjoy ourselves,” says Carbone of the innovative concepts that have garnered national attention. “If we feel there is a void in a particular market for a certain style of restaurant, and it’s something we want to be a part of, then we will go after building that.”
The opening of the ultra-luxe Carbone at the space formerly occupied by Stephen Starr’s Upland in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood marks the group’s first stage of expansion in South Florida. Five additional restaurants are slated to open in Brickell and the Miami Design District later this year.
Renowned designer Ken Fulk led the design for the restaurant’s ultra-chic interiors. A gorgeous color palette of terracotta, cream, and rich emerald green, along with chandeliers and Murano sconces, set the scene for a classic Italian feast. A more laid-back patio that can seat up to 50 is also available for eager diners.
“Miami has always been and will always be New York’s sister city, and I think that the relationship between the two allows a seamless transition,” says Carbone.
Zalaznick, who has established residency in the Magic City with his family, says the opening of the upcoming eateries will consist of a mix of new and existing brands in the group’s portfolio.
After a decade-plus of culinary entrepreneurship and achievements, Torrisi notes that “COVID or no COVID, it takes nothing less than obsession” to succeed in this business. “We give time and attention to detail for every facet of the guest experience,” he says. “The idea is to deliver a memorable mix of food, atmosphere, and service. All aspects should reflect our main goal, which is that our guests should always have fun.”