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A fond farewell to Carbone's in Crabtree

| Thursday, July 12, 2018, 8:09 a.m.
Vince Mangini poses for a portrait in the kitchen of Carbone's restaurant in Crabtree on Sunday, July 8, 2018.
Carolyn Rogers | Tribune-Review
Vince Mangini poses for a portrait in the kitchen of Carbone's restaurant in Crabtree on Sunday, July 8, 2018.

Can’t imagine what it will be like at the end of the night on July 28 in Carbone’s restaurant in Crabtree.

Who will flip the light switch that will permanently darken a community landmark?

Who will raise the glass and toast this Italian restaurant on its last night of existence after 80 years of making strangers feel like family over a bottle of red and a plate of pasta?

The news that broke over the weekend that Carbone’s will close by the end of the month reverberated far and wide. It has been a staple in the tiny town for eight decades. You might not have known where Crabtree was, but you knew Carbone’s was there, existing in harmony with a brethren in Italian food — Rizzo’s Malabar Inn — just across the street.

The Carbone family welcomed all as one of their own, usually six days a week, every week. Natalie Carbone Mangini, the daughter of founders Natale and Mary Carbone, often could be found going table to table greeting diners.

But the restaurant business is grueling. There are long hours — 60- to 70-hour workweeks are common. It truly must be a labor of love in order to be successful. Mangini said four generations into the family business, there just isn’t anyone who wants to take on that lifestyle.

It’s hard to blame them.

Most restaurants don’t last this long. The Family Business Alliance reported that only 3 percent of all family businesses make it into the fourth generation.

Family is what helped make dinner at Carbone’s a treat.

There are many faceless, impersonal, cookie-cutter operations that litter the dining landscape, many serving the same dishes prepared in the similar manner with a degree of urgency intended to clear the deck for more customers.

But so, too, are there the gems of family-owned businesses and restaurants that can be found in the smaller towns of Western Pennsylvania. They are often compact in size but bigger in heart. They might even cost you a little bit more, but we encourage you to seek them out. Like a trip to Carbone’s, it won’t take you long to feel like you’re part of the family, too.

In the meantime, we suspect there will be one last visit to see an old friend in Crabtree on many to-do lists this month.

And we raise our glass to Carbone’s in a heartfelt “salute!” (sah-loo-teh).

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