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Carbone's

588 Franklin Ave., Hartford, CT - (860) 296-9646
Posted By Michael Stern on 8/22/2003 3:48:00 PM
We have long believed that the Northeast has the most and the finest Italian food in America. In the big cities – Boston, Providence, New York – and in lesser ones from Newark to New Haven to Northampton, you can count on there being a significant, deep-rooted Italian neighborhood that will likely include salumeria and pork stores, pastry shops and gelateria, brick-oven pizzerias, and at least one grand old family-run restaurant. In that respect, Carbone’s is the crème de la crème.

Now run by a third generation of the family that started it in the 1930s, Carbone’s is located on Franklin Avenue, known as Hartford’s Little Italy. It is a deluxe restaurant, especially in the evening when the dining room is lit up by the pyrotechnics of tableside presentations of everything from steak Diane to bocce ball dessert. The menu always includes such definitive Carbone’s favorites as Veal Saltimbocca and Linguine Carbonara, but also extends to more modern original dishes that are Italian-inspired, such as Chilean sea bass cooked with proscuitto and flavored with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We are especially fond of salads, which are no mere secondary side dishes. The lunchtime Caesar salad, available topped with the kitchen’s incomparable fried calamari, is a bravura meal. Spinach salad is quickly flambéed tableside so it assumes a light glow of warmth. The best known one is Sicilian orange salad, a creation described in a 1980s nationally syndicated newspaper story as “a tableside production number, beginning vaguely like Caesar salad, but then veering away from cheese and romaine lettuce to incorporate the Sicilian citrus bounty.” Sicilian salad is well-known to regular customers, so well-known that it isn’t even listed on the menu!

While the dining room is grand, the bar is deliciously clubby and a wonderful place for lunch. Personal memorabilia from or about regular customers is posted on the wall, including caricatures of well-known patrons; and a general tone of quiet camaraderie gives the dark, comfortable room a privileged aura. On Wednesdays, it is customary for Guy Carbone to set up a couple of rolling carts and burners in the bar and make a flamboyant lunchtime special. While Guy cooks, the folks at the bar are having libations with baskets of just-fried potato chips and vociferously discussing the political and sports issues of the day.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
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At the top of our own Best Thing We Ever Ate list is this Veal Cuscinetto, stuffed with prosciutto and sharp cheese, then topped with artichoke hearts -- truly an incredible dish.
"At the top of our own Best Thing We Ever Ate list is this Veal Cuscinetto, stuffed with prosciutto and sharp cheese, then topped with artichoke hearts -- truly an incredible dish."
Chris & Amy Ayers





With bacon-wrapped stuffed cherry peppers, the Chicken Lacava makes it very difficult for us to try other appetizers on return trips.
"With bacon-wrapped stuffed cherry peppers, the Chicken Lacava makes it very difficult for us to try other appetizers on return trips."
Chris & Amy Ayers


These arancini, crispy fried rice balls with fresh mozzarella inside, are best with this fabulous marinara sauce.
"These arancini, crispy fried rice balls with fresh mozzarella inside, are best with this fabulous marinara sauce."
Chris & Amy Ayers


These tender gnocchi are accented by a pork, veal, and beef tomato cream sauce and a dollop of ricotta cheese.
"These tender gnocchi are accented by a pork, veal, and beef tomato cream sauce and a dollop of ricotta cheese."
Chris & Amy Ayers


The panettone bread pudding is soft and eggy as you would expect, and the caramel drizzle is, quite literally, the icing on the cake.
"The panettone bread pudding is soft and eggy as you would expect, and the caramel drizzle is, quite literally, the icing on the cake."
Chris & Amy Ayers


The size of this chocolate hazelnut torte looks skimpy, but the cocoa explosion of sweetness that ensues is comparable to half a chocolate cake.
"The size of this chocolate hazelnut torte looks skimpy, but the cocoa explosion of sweetness that ensues is comparable to half a chocolate cake."
Chris & Amy Ayers


The excellent fresh bread comes with dipping oil infused with tomatoes and peppers.
"The excellent fresh bread comes with dipping oil infused with tomatoes and peppers."
Chris & Amy Ayers


Carbone's is the crown jewel of Franklin Avenue in Hartford's Little Italy.
"Carbone's is the crown jewel of Franklin Avenue in Hartford's Little Italy."
Chris & Amy Ayers


Carbone's oven turns out beautiful loaves of bread as well as
"Carbone's oven turns out beautiful loaves of bread as well as "stone pies," the house name for pizzas ... available in variations from the classic Margherita to proscuitto and figs."
Michael Stern


A house specialty for years, the Sicilian Orange Salad is not listed on Carbone's menu. But it would be a mistake to eat here and not ask for it.
"A house specialty for years, the Sicilian Orange Salad is not listed on Carbone's menu. But it would be a mistake to eat here and not ask for it."
Michael Stern


Served as an appetizer or atop a gorgonzola salad, Carbone's fried calamari is some of the best anywhere.
"Served as an appetizer or atop a gorgonzola salad, Carbone's fried calamari is some of the best anywhere."
Michael Stern


Carbone's bar just before the lunch crowd starts streaming in.
"Carbone's bar just before the lunch crowd starts streaming in."
Michael Stern


The dining room at Carbone's is an elegant place to eat.
"The dining room at Carbone's is an elegant place to eat."
Michael Stern



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