Carbone alone: The subtle beauty of solo dining

Dining alone is the best way to beat long reservation lists and recharge.


Adelle Drake

The restaurant Carbone is located at 181 Thompson St. (Adelle Drake for WSN)

Valentina Plevisani, Staff Writer

Many say New York City is the place for people who aren’t afraid to do things on their own, and my social anxiety of being alone has significantly subsided since moving here. I used to cringe at the thought of being caught eating alone — but I discovered how serene it was when I dined alone for the first time at Carbone.

Securing a seat at Carbone is a badge of honor for city foodies. My TikTok was flooded with Carbone’s signature pasta, the Spicy Rigatoni Vodka, which convinced me to add my name to the lengthy Resy Notify list. I wanted to go with my friends, but the only way I could finally try the pasta of my dreams was to change my reservation from two to one.

That same week, I got a Resy notification and clicked on it immediately. The first time this happened, I made the amateur mistake of not booking a reservation as soon as I was notified. I would not let my Carbone dreams slip through my fingers this time, so I snagged a table for one at 12:15 p.m. the next day.

I was elated, until I realized that I would be dining alone in one of the city’s most renowned restaurants on a Saturday in broad daylight. I woke up both anxious and energized. I put on a fancy outfit and strolled to Carbone, acting like I owned the place. I needed the extra courage, even if it was a tad performative. The courage is what helped me get out of bed and to the restaurant.

To my surprise, Carbone’s waitstaff didn’t bat an eye when they learned I was a party of one, and showed me gracefully to my table. As I ordered the famous rigatoni, I saw another woman eating alone and having the time of her life. I chatted with her, and we connected over the fact that we were both alone. The difference was that I was a first-timer, while Ashley Marzullo was a solo-dining veteran from Providence, Rhode Island. Since coming to New York for a conference, Marzullo had dined alone at Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernardin, Aquavit and Jean-Georges.

You can sit and observe, and think about what you’re going to write about and get to enjoy the food,” Marzullo said. “It’s a time to observe people and think about whatever you normally don’t have time to think about. You notice things that otherwise you wouldn’t notice if you dine with someone.”

We both reached the same conclusion that eating alone means you don’t have to order what the other person wants, you don’t have to share and you don’t have to worry about maintaining a conversation. You get to do what you’re there for at the end of the day: enjoying your food.

“When people tell me ‘I’ll come with you on your trip,’ I’m like ‘No — it’s my alone time to recharge,’” Marzullo said.

Hearing these words of wisdom from a fellow foodie who’s been dining alone for years at some of the best restaurants in the world inspired me. You don’t really need anyone else to have a good time.

Don’t get me wrong — being surrounded by the people I love at a dinner table is my favorite thing. Still, there’s also something therapeutic about sitting with your thoughts and eating at one of the best dining establishments in the city. You get to make friends with other diners, order dessert for yourself and pay for what you ordered — no arguing about splitting the cheque.

In the same way you sometimes need to take a solo headphone walk, journal or read, dining solo is a restoring experience — and it’s even better if you’re at an upscale place. Walking out of Carbone with my lemon ricotta cheesecake to-go in a fancy paper bag is a feeling I will cherish for a long time. Next time you’re itching to try a new restaurant, I suggest you make a reservation for one.

Contact Valentina Plevisani at [email protected].