Aesha Shah ’14 and Brittany Viola ’14
On Wednesday night, we had trouble deciding on which of the three dining halls we wanted to eat at for dinner, as none of them sounded appetizing. We were in the mood for some quality Italian food and decided to venture off campus, landing at Carbone’s Ristorante on Franklin Avenue in Hartford’s “Little Italy.” There are several other Italian restaurants, bakeries and delis in this little section of Hartford, only about ten minutes from campus.
When we stepped into the restaurant, we noticed the many awards the family business has won since it opened in 1938. As the hostess walked us to our table, we also spotted a wall of signed pictures of celebrity customers, professional athletes, actors, and politicians. The spacious restaurant has three separate sections for dining, along with a bar. We sat at a table in one of the dining rooms off the main dining area. The dimly lit restaurant alternates the floors of its rooms with a green and white patterned carpet and dark, wooden floors. The atmosphere is very traditional and elegant with white tablecloths, small candles, and brown wooden chairs. Our room had beautiful white and pink stained-glass windows to complement the striking wood paneling, bright watercolor paintings, and grey walls. The main dining room has a vibrant fresco that covers the walls.
Upon sitting down, we were given homemade bread and breadsticks and sun-dried tomato olive oil. While munching on the warm bread, we flipped through the menu, which has a selection of traditional Italian dishes including Fetuccine Carbonara, Linguini with clam sauce, and Chicken Parmigiana. There also are a variety of chicken, veal, steak and fish dishes on the menu, and a lengthy wine list.
We decided to start with the fried calamari appetizer and a garden salad. The calamari rings were perfectly battered, crispy, and delicious, and the hot cherry peppers and lemon-garlic butter glaze were a delightful addition to the appetizer. Fresh and topped with a wonderful homemade vinaigrette, the garden salad was excellent. The family next to us ordered Caesar salads and we enjoyed watching the waitress whisk the dressing and prepare the salad in a big bowl right in front of them.
For dinner, Brittany ordered the eggplant parmigiana with homemade gnocchi and Aesha ordered the vegetarian risotto. The meals were brought out piping hot, soon after we finished the calamari and salad. The eggplant parmigiana is served in a separate casserole dish. It is arguably one of the best eggplant parmigiana that we have ever had. Being half Italian, Brittany has had numerous eggplant parmigiana dishes and can safely say that Carbone’s was one of the best. The combination of layers of thinly slice breaded eggplant, Parmesan and ricotta cheese, and homemade tomato sauce, made this dish spectacular. Its cheesy top is baked to golden perfection, the edges are crisp, the inside is gooey and amazing, and there is just the right amount of sauce on top.
The gnocchi (little potato dumpling pastas) were also fantastic. They were flawlessly tender and absorbed the heavenly sauce. The portion was not too large, but considering that gnocchi is incredibly filling and that the eggplant parm was rather large, it wasn’t a big problem.
Aesha’s juicy vegetarian rissotto was extraordinary. The tasty arborri rice mixed with tender mushrooms, onions, sliced eggplant, broccoli rabe, fresh tomato, and regianno cheese was a divine combination. The perfectly portioned dish is rich, succulent, and creamy.
Overall, the service was pretty good. Our water glasses were never empty and the owner stopped by to ask us how our meals were. The waitress was a bit persistent, especially when we passed on the dessert menu due to the fact that we were in a food coma.
We would recommend Carbone’s for those who want great, traditional Italian dishes. It is consistently voted as Hartford’s “Best Italian Restaurant” and the owners are opening a second restaurant in Bloomfield, CT. Carbone’s would be the perfect spot for a romantic date (for those of you at Trin that actually do go on dates) or if you want to share an elegant meal with friends, or if your family is visiting. The menu isn’t exactly cheap (entrees range from $24-$32), but they are well worth it for a great, quality meal. They have great sandwiches, paninis, and salads for lunch, as well. On Mondays through Thursdays, they offer a 3-course dinner special in their main dining room for $24.99 per person in addition to their special occasion specials. Carbone’s will also have some spectacular deals on meals and wines in the upcoming “Restaurant Week,” October 8th-13th.