ZZ’s, the members club that Major Food Group’s Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick debuted in mid-November 2023, is an extravagant dining destination that progressively gets more over-the-top as you ascend the grand stairs and weave yourself through the different Ken Fulk-designed settings.
Located in Hudson Yards, ZZ’s is Major Food Group’s first New York private club (the original opened in Miami in 2021), and it’s without question the most lavish and exclusive thing that the hospitality brand has ever created.
So let’s start at the top, at the Founders’ Room, tucked behind the world’s first private Carbone.
The Founders’ Room is a 60-seat space reserved for, as you may have guessed, the founding members of the club, who can order anything from the menus of both Carbone Privato on the same floor and the ZZ’s Japanese brasserie one level below. The 250 founding memberships, which cost $50,000 plus $10,000 in annual dues, sold out quickly. But like at any private club, the owners have the discretion to add additional memberships in special circumstances.
In the last decade, Major Food Group has reached the pinnacle of the hospitality industry with its hyper-focused approach to top-tier cooking, opulent experiences and tableside theatrics. Dinner is the show. The recent rebirth of Torrisi, the restaurant that started it all, has been a blowout success that earned a Michelin star in less than a year. But the Founders’ Room really takes it all to another level.
With 48-hours’ notice, dedicated culinary concierges will work with ZZ’s chefs to fulfill any dish or menu request in the Founders’ Room. There’s been some confusion about what this means for the savvy, well-traveled, unlimited-bankroll founding members at ZZ’s. So, let’s clarify: You do not have to book the entire Founders’ Room to make a request. If you want to celebrate your 10-year anniversary by having ZZ’s recreate the food you ate on your first date at a restaurant that no longer exists, you can. If you want to dine solo and devour a chopped cheese sandwich made with Kobe beef, the club can make it happen. If you and your best friend love Singapore hawker stands and want kaya toast, laksa and Hainanese chicken, ZZ’s can get you sorted.
“It’s a robust program,” Zalaznick tells Observer. “No one’s ever done it before, and the founders are really starting to celebrate it as they settle into the club.”
Carbone has spoken to founding members about “themed dinners” for both a board meeting and a group of friends. But the club encourages its founding members to use their imagination, to think about taste memories and to ask for a procession of their favorite Major Food Group dishes.
“If it’s your mother’s birthday and she used to make you a special borscht when you were growing up and you have the recipe, we’ll make it,” Zalaznick says. “If you want to have three dishes from Torrisi and three dishes from the Grill and the duck from Dirty French, you can do that. If you want us to come up with an eight-course lobster feast because you used to spend summers in Maine, we can do that. We’ll take family recipes. We’ll take ideas. We’ll take big-picture thoughts about cuisines.”
For those who aren’t founding members, ZZ’s offers $20,000 individual memberships and $30,000 two-person memberships (plus $10,000 in annual dues for all memberships) that can be shared by spouses, friends or business partners. All members have access to lively spaces that include the first-floor ZZ’s restaurant, a tropical, blue-hued, aquatic-themed more-is-more space where wagyu sandos, toro rolls, sushi platters, shrimp fritters, lobster dumplings and whole crispy snappers are paired with sake and cocktails that highlight ingredients like yuzu. On the second floor, there’s the Living Room’s caviar, crudo and cocktails, as well as the forthcoming Leo’s, a lounge space with DJs for intimate gatherings.
The second floor is also where Carbone Privato is showcasing new dishes like lobster risotto all’arrabbiata and where Major Food Group has brought back crowd-pleasers like spaghetti with Dungeness crab that might remind you of eating outside at a Venice piazza. There are inspired riffs on classics like baked clams three ways and new show-stopping desserts like an apple strudel that Mario Carbone himself plated tableside last week. What Major Food Group wants to ensure is that there is new material, including crudo, pasta and steak, in every section of the Carbone Privato menu. And Carbone’s beloved veal Parm, meatballs and spicy rigatoni are also here, of course.
Food often feels like an afterthought at private clubs. ZZ’s, however, is flipping the script by making the food the main event, with features like a private dining room (where special menu requests can be made with two-weeks’ notice) that members can book for customized meals.
But one thing that’s fueling Major Food Group is how patrons appreciate the vivid and uncompromising food coming out of the ZZ’s kitchens. Members enjoy seeing red sauce splashing around tables. Members are excited to pick apart whole fish and shellfish. Members are down to eat many items with their hands.
Members also like trying spicy new dishes, including one particular standout.
“The lobster risotto is getting a ton of attention, which is something I wasn’t prepared for,” Carbone tells Observer. “We’ve upped our pars of lobster because that has probably been the most popular of all the new dishes so far.”
“The lobster risotto is one of my favorite things on the menu,” Torrisi agrees.
When Observer arrived at 8:30 p.m. for our first dinner at ZZ’s on a recent Monday evening, a member at another table in the Founders’ Room had just ordered the last two spicy lobster risottos. Two evenings later, when Observer visited ZZ’s for the third time in as many days (including a stop at the Japanese brasserie on Tuesday), a friend ensured that our 8 p.m. table of 10 at Carbone Privato got the last two lobster risottos.
It’s a deeply delicious and labor-intensive dish, made with Vialone Nano rice and liquid that’s 50 percent lobster stock and 50 percent vegetable stock. The rice is both cooked and finished with Calabrian chili butter. The lobster is blanched and broken down into medallions that also get covered with Calabrian chili butter and then broiled. To be clear, that’s three hits of Calabrian chili butter in a dish that members of an elite private club are clamoring to order.
“Doing rice is a big commitment,” Carbone says. “It’s literally one employee just stirring rice all night. That’s a really luxurious thing to have in a kitchen. It’s something that we’ve wanted to do for a while, and I’m looking forward to coming up with new risottos. I think the lobster’s going to stick around, and we’ll give it a dance partner throughout the year. Right now, there’s a white truffle risotto that’s great.”
This is a club run by restaurant people, through and through. “ZZ’s is a club for people who love to eat, drink and celebrate,” says Zalaznick, who loves having martini carts that serve custom blends of gin and vodka chilled to less than 40 degrees at Carbone Privato. “If you don’t love eating and drinking, this is not the club. We are a food-focused club. That’s what we stand for. We’re not scared to make the version of something that we think is the best.”