With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hartford Food Guy Reviews: Trinity Restaurant

The Hartford Food Guy reviews Trinity Restaurant, which by all accounts seems like a real Sad City type of place.  Super bonus points for the retro Enjoy Sprite sign.

When I blogged about Pho Boston, a reader suggested that I try the Trinity Restaurant on Zion Street. I put it on my HFG to do list, but I never got around to it, probably because Mrs. HFG and I left for London 3 weeks later and things got crazy when we got back.

A couple of weeks ago, however, a friend told me that he and his girlfriend had been there for dinner and loved it. No doubt seeking to latch on to the rising fame and fortune of the HFG (:p) he offered to go back with me so I could check it out.

I was intrigued, not only because a reader and a friend had recommended it, but also because my friend told me the place was operated by an Albanian family and I was really interested to see what Albanian cuisine was all about. On Thursday Mrs. HFG was out of town on business, so my friend and I went for dinner. Although I was pretty disappointed when I read the menu and saw that the cuisine was really more Italian-inspired new American cuisine and not ethnic Albanian food, I wasn’t at all disappointed in the experience.

I started with an order of steamed mussels in a tomato and garlic broth/sauce. The mussels had good flavor and had been properly cleaned. The tomato and garlic sauce was ok and added some flavor, but did not overwhelm the mussels. All in all, it was a good way to start the meal.

My friend had an order of calamari with cocktail sauce. While I can’t say it was the best plate of calamari I’ve ever seen, it was certainly a good dish. The calamari was crisp, but not over-fried, and the cocktail sauce added just enough flavor. Again, it was a solid choice.

For dinner I had lamb oso buco, which was a play on a traditional veal oso buco dish, right down to the risotto. Probably even more than veal, lamb can be tough, so cooking it in the oso buco fashion (browned with either butter, oil, or lard, then braised with white wine and a meat broth flavored with veggies) is a great way to tenderize. Our chef did a great job with the generous lamb shank I was served and the meat was tender and had a wonderful flavor.

My risotto was OK, though Mrs. HFG’s is much, much better. I did, however, have a nice portion of steamed asparagus, which were not overdone, nor weighed down in a ton of butter. They had a nice flavor, which was accentuated by the flavor of the lamb shank under which they were sitting.

My friend had orescchiette (small, ring shaped pasta known as little ears) with some delicious spicy sausage in a tomato sauce with peppers and some broccoli rabe. I thought his dinner was very tasty and also very well-balanced. There were a lot of flavors working and they complemented each other quite nicely.

Although our dinner was pretty good, our deserts were excellent. At the recommendation of the proprietress, I had the tiramisu. In fact, with a smile and in her broken English she assured me that “we make the best tiramisu.” I don’t know about that, but it was damn good; rich without being too heavy and tasty without being too sugary.

My friend didn’t order dessert, but that didn’t stop the proprietress from bringing him some nice crème brulee. I don’t think it was quite up to the standard of the tiramisu, but it was very good and a happy ending to a delicious meal.

Total tab, including tip, came to just north of $85 – not cheap, but still a pretty reasonable price.

As you can see from the picture, the outside of the TR is nothing to write home about. That shouldn’t scare anyone away, however, as the interior is very cheery, with light colors and nice wooden furniture. It isn’t fancy, but it is comfortable. The service is solid and what its owners lack in restaurant expertise, they more than make up for in positive energy, work ethic, and frankly love for their customers and their cooking.

TR isn’t fine dining, but its menu is definitely a cut or two above your basic neighborhood restaurant. The food is very good, the service solid, and the atmosphere upbeat. It’s easy to see why it is a favorite of Trinity students and professors (several parties filed in as we were eating).

The only negative is a complete and utter lack of parking, save open spots along Zion Street. While that isn’t an issue if you are walking from the Trinity campus, it could make it a bit tough if you are coming from elsewhere.

All-in-all I was glad my friend and I went to TR. We had a very good meal at a reasonable price and Mrs. HFG and I will go back – as soon as I clear some other places of the HFG “to do” list. :>

I couldn’t find a website, but here is a link to a map and some reviews.


  1. That sign is freakin' awesome!

  2. this is the old Timothy's, isn't it? ah, i miss Timothy's....

  3. Gaspar has tried and tried to like this place, but never came away satisfied after many visits. Their lamb sandwich, for instance, is laden with some sort of sour cream or yogurt sauce; same with the grilled salmon sandwich. And the salmon was overcooked too. The salad (of all things) was too salty. You're better off asking for the dressing on the side. Home made rolls are very good, at least. And they make good pizza.