Crabtree restaurant Carbone’s celebrates 75 years of enduring family tradition
Carbone’s has always put the family in “family restaurant.”
The Crabtree dining establishment has been serving the original recipes of founders Natale “Nat” Jr. and Mary Carbone since it opened its doors in 1938. Even though they are gone, their legacy is kept alive by family members who carry on their strong beliefs in serving good food and treating the customer well.
As the Carbone family celebrates the restaurant’s 75th anniversary, it’s apparent that the secret to their success is not only in the sauce, but also in the cooks who prepare it, the staff who deliver it and the customers who enjoy it.
“My mother used to say, ‘We get a lot of people from Pittsburgh and they passed a lot of restaurants to get here. We need to treat them special,’” says Natale III “Buz” Carbone, one of Nat and Mary’s three children, now retired from the business.
His sister Natalie Carbone Mangini, at age 85, is the official greeter and bookkeeper. Their sister, Rosalie, died in 1979.
Carbone’s first restaurant was just 4 feet from its current site along Route 119, six miles north of Greensburg. Nat and Mary Carbone purchased the original building in 1936 from the Jamison Coal and Coke Co. during the Depression, after the company’s mines shut down. The Carbones originally intended it to be used as a pool hall. The community building housed a recreation room upstairs and a confectionary store, barber shop and bowling alley downstairs.
Mary would make sandwiches and snacks for the pool-hall patrons. In 1938, her husband wanted to apply for a liquor license and open a beer hall, because Prohibition had ended. Mary wouldn’t agree to a beer hall, but she did go along with starting a family restaurant. Nat was the bartender, and Mary ran the kitchen.
The venture was a success, and, in 1973, after undertaking various remodeling projects, the family agreed that Carbone’s had outgrown its original building, and a new facility was constructed next door.
These days, the Italian restaurant is run by three of Natalie and her late husband, Vincent’s, four children: Natalie Stefanick, who attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York and supervises food preparation; Melissa Orlosky, who manages social media and the restaurant’s website, and Vince “Vinny” Mangini, who handles business responsibilities. Daughter Vanessa Hooper lives with her family in Ambler, Montgomery County.
“It’s always been a family affair. All of the kids worked in the restaurant, setting tables and bussing until they were 18 and could be a server,” says Stefanick, adding that her two sons, Patrick, 17, and Daniel, 14, “help out like we did.”
Carbone’s signature pasta sauce is made from a labor-intensive, two-day process, Stefanick says. That includes hand-squeezing 10 cases of three types of canned tomatoes to yield 50 gallons of sauce. The freshest ingredients, including basil grown in the family garden, are added and simmered overnight in steam-jacketed kettles and cooked and strained the next day.
“The secret to the sauce is in the slow cooking,” says her mother, Natalie Mangini.
Like many old-fashioned cooks, Stefanick says, her grandmother never measured ingredients.
“It was a pinch of this, a pinch of that,” she says. “My instructor at the Culinary Institute said to follow her around and measure what she used to make the sauce. We have a standard recipe now.”
Other homemade items at the restaurant include pizza sauce and dough, ravioli, lasagna and gnocchi, and Carbone’s own Italian salad dressing. Bottled dressing and jars of sauce are available for purchase at the cashier’s counter.
Stefanick, who studied baking and pastry-making at culinary school, creates some of the fancy desserts on the menu, including Angel Pie, a chiffon pie made with graham-cracker crust, coconut and strawberries, which was her Aunt Rosalie’s recipe that she named after her daughter, Angel.
Many patrons have been coming to the restaurant for years, including Bob and Barbara Livorio of New Kensington, who recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at Carbone’s.
“When our children were small, we were told that Carbone’s had good Italian food,” Bob Livorio says. “The food was to our liking and the staff was outstanding and very friendly. We found it such a nice experience with our family that, as our kids grew up, it became our special-occasion place. To go all the way from New Kensington to there, it would have to be for more than a dish of spaghetti.”
Another long-time customer, Jack Putnak of Charleroi, says his parents first dined at Carbone’s in the 1950s and celebrated their anniversaries there. His mother died in 1991, but Putnak and his 85-year-old father still have meals at the restaurant.
“We really love the food, and everyone’s really friendly,” he says.
Crabtree resident Kevin Miscik, owner of Lapels, A Fine Men’s Clothier in Greensburg, says his first after-school job was at Carbone’s, as a busboy when he was 16.
“They have employed a lot of local people and gave opportunities to young people like myself,” he says. “I’m 45 now, and some of the same people still work there.”
Orlosky attributes Carbone’s success to her grandparents’ philosophy of treating everyone like family.
“To us, you are not a customer or an employee, but extended family,” she says. “We have customers who are bringing their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They have celebrated their first date, engagement, wedding and birthdays at Carbone’s. We are part of their family tradition.”
Several current employees have 40 years of service, including two relatives, Angel Isenberg, who works as a prep cook, and Mary Ann Mangini, a cashier; as well as servers Irene Kerila and Peggy Hoggett.
“We’re all family and my employers treat me as such,” says Hoggett of Hempfield. “It makes you want to continue to work there.”
Kerila, of Crabtree, says she has made a lot of friends through her job at the restaurant and, “I wouldn’t think of retiring. I live only five houses up the road and what would I do?”
Miscik says one of the charms of Carbone’s is that “you always feel like you’re at home. For a restaurant to be there for 75 years and make it with all the competition, they’re doing something special. You don’t find many mom-and-pop restaurants in today’s world.”
To celebrate their 75th anniversary, Carbone’s will have special daily deals next week.
Another relative, mural artist Raphael Pantalone of Crabtree, has designed T-shirts that proclaim “Carbone’s Celebrating 75 years” with the “75” made from drawings of pepperoni slices.
“Buz” Carbone says his parents would be proud of the family’s dedication to the restaurant business for 75 years, even his mother – whose maiden name was Mary Skodak – who was not of Italian descent.
“She was Slovak,” her son says. “That’s why we have pierogies on the menu — in her honor.”
Carbone’s dining room is open from 4:30-8:15 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and from 4:30-9:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Winter hours may vary.
Details: 724-834-3430 or www.carbonesrestaurant.com
Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.