We are foodies. We live in Northeast and eat regularly in Manhattan. We've also been to Italy. There is a certain level of excellence we expect from our Italian food... and this place totally hit the mark. After a very poor meal at a different Italian place in Carmel on our first night there... we tried La Balena on our second night. The restaurant was packed but we were offered a table on their private outdoor patio right away. It was a cold night but their outdoor heaters kept us comfortable throughout our meal. I love seeing lardo on a menu! It's like a green flag telling me that the chef is Italian! The octopus app was truly amazing and PERFECTLY cooked (which isnt easy when it comes to octopus). Our desserts were also fantastic (I ordered two and I'm proud of it). We talked with the owner at length after our meal. He knows his stuff, has worked for well-known chefs (Battali), and understands the way real Italian food should taste. I can't say enough about this place... it felt like a little slice of home in Carmel. Don't miss it. It's truly authentic.