ALEX COGGIN ’16
Soft jazz, mood lighting and classic Italian food – located in the South End neighborhood, Carbone’s Ristorante offers a glimpse into Hartford’s past. The restaurant, which was historically a hangout for influential politicians and industrial executives, has not lost its old-school charm. Now the clientele is skewed towards couples; the nostalgic atmosphere makes for a perfect date night venue.
Upon entering Carbone’s, guests are greeted by soft lounge music and a warm atmosphere. A coat check is available by the door and there is a cozy bar area near the entrance.
The restaurant is deceptively large; there are three separate dining rooms and the total capacity is in excess of 100 guests. There are booths as well as traditional tables, which are adorned with white tablecloths.
To start, we were given a breadbasket with a large freshly baked roll and parmesan breadsticks, as well as a seasoned oil for dipping.
Carbone’s boasts an extensive wine list and a full bar. Many wines are available by the glass, with an even larger variety available by the bottle. Italian wines are clearly the focus of the wine menu; however, many other countries are represented.
The dinner menu features appetizers, salads, pastas, entrees, “classics”, and desserts.
Appetizers include arancini- a traditional cheese stuffed rice ball- calamari, and chicken lacava- crispy bacon wrapped chicken skewers. Salads include a wedge salad, winter caprese, and Caesar, which is prepared tableside.
Pastas range from Bolognese to Carbonara and feature fresh made pastas. Classics include chicken marsala and veal parmesan, as well as many other Italian staples. Entrees include pan roasted cod, braised short rib, and grilled veal chop.
For starters, we ordered the arancini. There was a special lobster arancini on the menu that evening, so we opted for that rather than the classic. They were enjoyable; the outer coating was crispy, but the rice and cheese were creamy and rich. The lobster was plentiful and tender. The aranicini were served with a creamy tomato sauce, which was delicious.
In addition to the arancini, we ordered the Caesar salad for the tableside experience. The dressing is made by hand in the bowl before lettuce is added. It is tossed with the dressing and croutons and then plated with shaved parmesan cheese. The salad was very good; the dressing was not overly garlicky and the greens were especially crisp since the salad was prepared tableside.
I ordered the pepper crusted filet for my entree. The filet was prepared to a perfect medium rare topped with gorgonzola. It was served with whipped potatoes, green beans, and a brandy reduction.
The filet was one of the most tender steaks I have ever tasted. The sweetness of the brandy reduction complemented the rich meat and salty gorgonzola magnificently. The potatoes were buttery and creamy but were only slightly warm when they arrived to the table. Green beans were simply prepared, but did not add much to the plate besides color and more food.
Desserts include bananas foster served over ice cream, New York style cheesecake, and Crème Brûlée. Coffee and espresso are available as well.
Many of the desserts are prepared tableside and although we did not order dessert, the preparation and finished product of surrounding tables looked heavenly. The bananas foster looked especially decadent; the bananas are flambéed and served over vanilla ice cream, which makes for quite the experience and treat.
We opted for espresso instead of dessert, which was served classically with a slice of lemon peel. It also came with a small cookie which was a perfect light dessert following a satisfying meal.
Most main dishes and classics are priced in the $25 to $40 range. Appetizers and salads are priced in the $10 to $15 range. The total bill came to about $40 to $50 dollars per person. Given its popularity in the Hartford area, Carbone’s is usually quite busy on weekend nights so I recommend making a reservation. Carbone’s is open for lunch Monday through Friday and for dinner Monday through Saturday.
If you are celebrating a special occasion or looking for a more formal date night, Carbone’s Ristorante is a great choice. With its classic interior and atmosphere, Carbone’s offers a high-end experience as well as a nostalgic look into Hartford’s historic past.