Carbone's is one of the most famous restaurants in Hartford. Located in the South End on Franklin Ave, Carbone's is one of those places you hear about once being "the place to be in Hartford." As the stories go, in the halycon days, Carbone's was a place that top area power brokers and politicians could be found at.
These days Carbone's remains, but the South End has undergone a profound change in the last quarter-century. The theories on the reasons for these changes are innummerable, and run a wide gamut, including the opening of the casinos in Connecticut. Whatever those reasons may be, we recently came across a 1992 Hartford Courant article in which many of the same questions that remain today existed 20 years ago. The text of the article from October 29, 1992.
"Carbone's restaurant, started by his father and uncle 54 years ago, was the first on the avenue. He remembers when it was pretty easy getting people to the Avenue. Nearby Bulkeley Stadium was home to the Hartford Chiefs -- a farm team of the then-Boston Braves -- and the Hartford Indians of what was then called The Negro League.
Carbone's then was called the Southern Plantation, served fried chicken and spaghetti, and Carbone remembers seeing baseball greats such as Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Warren Spahn eat in the restaurant's kitchen to avoid autograph seekers. Events no longer draw people to the South End, but rather than sing "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?", the restaurateurs are looking for other ways to draw in customers.
Franklin Avenue restaurants must promote the whole "avenue of foods" as a destination, Carbone said.
There has been talk about getting a sign at the Airport Road exit off I-91 marking the area as "Little Italy" or "Restaurant District."
The restaurateurs also are allied in a battle against public perception. One chief concern they share is that some would-be patrons are worried about safety in the neighborhood.
"The biggest thing they get in phone calls is -- is it safe?" Fusco said. "People make early reservations and leave by nine."
Overall crime in the South End neighborhood in the first six months of this year increased more than 30 percent from the same period last year -- the biggest percentage increase among the city's 17 neighborhoods, according to Hartford Police Department records. "