Downtown Hartford’s Oldest Restaurant Closes

Long time city eatery and gathering place Hot Tomato’s has closed.    The sign on the door says “closed for renovations,” but sources told Eyewitness News the restaurant known for garlic cheese bread simply shut down suddenly for no reason.   I am waiting for owner Melissa Altman to return my telephone messages to get her side of the story.

Hot Tomato’s has been a downtown mainstay for nearly 30 years, and in all the times I have eaten there it was busy.     That’s why I doubt the closing is related to the economy.   The renovations story sounds  a little hard to believe for a few reasons:

1.      A high ranking Hot Tomato’s employee told me he has been told not to talk to reporters for “legal reasons.”       What would be harmful about answering my question about when the renovations will begin, and when the restaurant will re-open?

2.      A source who works at another downtown restaurant told me Hot Tomato’s employees have been calling looking for work.  

3.      That source also told me the owner of Hot Tomato’s is looking to sell items from the restaurant, including wine.

4.       Hot Tomato’s just unveiled a brand new wine room on Valentine’s Day.  Why would they close for more renovations a month later?

5.       The spring is the worst time to renovate a restaurant because it is a busy season.   Rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, graduation parties, etc.,  not to mention the weather starts to get nice and Hot Tomato’s has an outdoor patio overlooking the State Capitol and Bushnell Park. 

We do know that former Hot Tomato’s general manager Jimmy Cosgrove recently opened a new restaurant on the other end of side of Bushnell Park.  “Salute” is off to a great start, and several former Hot Tomato workers are now there.    Many Hot Tomato’s customers have also become regulars at Salute.    We should also mention that the Tavern restaurant on Allyn Street will honor the Hot Tomato’s  “Better Connecticut” deals that were issued not long ago. 

If you have a Hot Tomato’s gift certificate you may want to contact the Attorney General’s office of Department of Consumer Protection.

We’ll keep you posted.

Categories: Uncategorized

6 replies »

  1. Dennis I spoke to my brother who knows what is what in Hartford after I found out that they closed, and he told me that after her husband killed himself she started to run the place into the ground and had planed to close.He was shocked it took so long.Wish I asked him before I purchased the Better deal.I doubt that the AG will do anything since it only affects 100 people but then again thats 100 voters.


  2. Dennis, I have heard from employees of Hot tomatos that their paychecks began to bounce and that suppliers had started cutting them off due to outstanding balances. The biggest mistake Melissa Altman made was pushing Jimmy Cosgrove out. When Jimmy left, the staff and customers did to. As you mentioned, Salute is off to a great start and it isnt by accident. I hate to see Hot Tomatos close but once Jimmy and his team were gone, it stopped being the hot tomatos that everyone loved.


    • Thanks for the link. It is a great website and it is great to see so many people talking about Hartford.


  3. A restaurant same old, same old. Its about individuals who find themselves at the head of something that they were never meant to be. The classic food service tale of getting caught up in the all the additive things about the biz…..cash, booze, drugs and sex.

    Every business, no matter how popular can give just so much. It isn’t a never ending cash cow and should never be treated as such. But when you actually start BELIEVING that you are as “great” as your “friends” tell you that you are….THIS is what typically happens.

    Waitresses are meant to be waitresses.


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