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.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Carbone's & The South End: 20 Years Ago



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. "

3 comments:

  1. I remember Carbones and I also remember the Old Marc Anthony's restaurant because my mother worked there for so many years. The dilapidated building still stands at 1000 Wethersfield Ave. It's really too bad because the food was great and it made for the perfect reception hall. In the 70's and early 80's it was supposedly a popular night club as well.

    -Sarah

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  2. I grew up on Redding Street, deep in the heart of the South End. My brother and I, plus the two Boyle brothers, were the only kids in the whole South End with blue eyes. It seemed.

    I didn't enjoy the fruits of Carbone's Restaurant until I was grown, married, and a father, living across the River east of Hartford. As I knew it as a boy, it was "The SP", or Southern Plantation, a favorite of my father's. My bicycling stops during those days was at The Lincoln Dairy, a couple doors north of The SP. Just south beyond The SP, on the same east side of Franklin Avenue, was the infamous small brick building of the Public Works Division of Hartford, set back close to 50 yards, and during the 1940s, enclosed with a 10 foot high chain link fence. Inside the enclosure, for about a full year, were the male members of all the Nisei families in and around Hartford. It as the Auschwitz of Connecticut, the place all those people were imprisoned after Pearl Harbor. I know this from my daily visits there after school and on weekends, along with a few buddies who didn't hate those Japanese-Americans too much so we could play catch with the younger ones, and deliver our spare bats and gloves and baseballs so they could play some ball in their spare time. Which was all the time. What my country did to these innocent citizens was terrible.

    But on to amore cordial observation. Carbone's is just one of a slew of fine Italian eateries. But the old SP will always be special to me because of its proximity to Bulckley Stadium, and the draw of so many future and then-present Major Leaguers. Ah, how wonderful were those 30s aND 40s.

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  3. My grandfather owned the lincoln dairy. He was a millionare until the store went out of business when freezers became more advanced and most stores sold dairy products in store.

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