"'I'll take the pasta with the lamb and the mussels,' says no one ever," quips Mario Carbone about the signature dish at Santina, the tropical fish tank of a restaurant he opened with his partners Jeff Zalaznick, Rich Torrisi, and Dan Haar, who is also chef de cuisine. The dish in question features merguez sausage and mussels, an odd combination for most American diners. But as Carbone notes, "there is precedent for meat and fish dishes in Southern Italy."
The reason you don't see such dishes more often on menus here is "because strategically you are wiping out two categories," he says, meaning it's a missed opportunity to serve both a meat pasta and a seafood pasta. But the chef fell in love with the combination while working at Del Posto earlier in his career, where a similar dish was served, and felt it was perfect for Santina. It was the only dish on the menu that came together the first time he prepared it, no further adjustment needed. The dish is combination of lamb sausage, mussels, garlic, fresh herbs, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes – the latter offering "touches of acidity" rather than forming the base of the sauce – served over a rich, egg yolk-heavy pasta. The only problem was the branding, but naming Chitarra Santina after the restaurant has turned it into one of the top sellers.
Watch Haar make the dish in the slideshow above.