Red sauce cuisine has become a bit of a bad word in the food world in recent years, often used to refer sneeringly to the overpriced Italian-American tourist traps of Little Italy and Arthur Avenue. But it looks like the genre of sauce-heavy immigrant cooking may be primed for a second act.

Jeff Gordinier of the New York Times reports on the much-anticipated opening of Carbone, the lastest project from red-hot NYC chefs Mario Carbone and Rich Torrisi. As with their exceptionally popular spots Parm and Torrisi Italian Specialities—favored haunts of both the fooderati and celebs like Jay-Z—the duo seeks to take familiar, old-fashioned fare and remix it with improved techniques and ingredients.

In the case of Carbone, however, the staging will be integral as the food, “engineered to conjure up the feeling of a lively night downtown, circa 1958.” Even the service will be a throwback to an earlier era:

[pullquote]Customers won’t merely choose dishes, [partner Jeff] Zalaznick said; they’ll engage in a friendly sparring match with servers to make sure each course is custom-tailored. “It’s giving the power back to the diner,” he said. “The way everything has gone with tasting menus, pulling the power away from the guest — we’re trying to give it back.”[/pullquote]

Striking this balance—both conjuring the past while simultaneously trying to improve it—is always a tricky game to play. But if anyone can pull it off, it may be these chefs.

Of course, even if they succeed in the eyes of restaurant critics, the old wiseguys of the neighborhood might not be having any of it. You can catch them nearby at Gene’s instead, talking trash over Chianti and plates of lasagna.

[via NYT]