It’s been called the most important meal of the day. For Park Road and its annual parade, a yearly breakfast is all it takes to make everyone happy.
The annual Celebrity Breakfast took place Tuesday morning at . Local dignitaries from West Hartford and Hartford grabbed aprons and order pads to serve the nearly 250 hungry customers who stopped by the restaurant between 7 and 10 a.m. The proceeds from the event help to offset the cost of the Park Road Parade, which, this year, is scheduled for Oct. 6.
The smell of coffee and bacon hung heavy in the air as celebrities such as Mayor Scott Slifka, Board of Education Chairman Bruce Putterman and Hartford’s Assistant Fire Chief Carlos Huerto scurried around the small restaurant dishing out endless plates of eggs, waffles, and pancakes.
Special aprons protected their work clothes for later, when their stints as “hash slingers” were over. Adeptly, despite being wait-staff novices, the celebrities juggled coffee pots and plates of food with very few mishaps. Early in the morning, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra had stopped by to lend his support for the parade and for the spirit of camaraderie that exists between Park Road and Park Street.
By eight o’clock, the restaurant was overflowing with customers. Local radio personality WDRC’s Brad Davis was setting up in a corner, preparing to broadcast his morning show from the restaurant.
owner Catherine Denton greeted all who entered. Any sense of restaurant rivalry was non-existent as she talked about how important it is to her that all of the merchants lining Park Road continue to work together to create a thriving neighborhood. “For years the Park Road Association has worked tirelessly to promote the success of its businesses and to create a nice quality of life. I’m so happy that we now have a street where people have a great choice of restaurants, an award-winning playhouse and nice little shops.”
Richard Patrissi, whose devotion to the street has earned him the unofficial title of “Mayor of Park Road,” has been instrumental in organizing the parade and the breakfast since their inceptions. This October’s parade will be the 14th and this past breakfast was the 10th.
“Without the celebrity breakfast, there would be no Park Road Parade. We are so happy to have so many people to come down here and support this good community cause,” remarked Patrissi.
Dave Steben, whose family-owned has been a Park Road presence for decades, credits the Park Road Association and its tireless volunteers. “The breakfast is a time of celebration on Park Road. It brings a lot of people here. Besides having a good time watching the parade, they are able to see what Park Road has become due to the Park Road Association. People like Richard Patrissi and Angelo Faenza have done a great job here. The parade is a great day.”
Back in the dining room, there seemed to be no end to the specials of the day: Park Road Pancakes, Whiting Lane Waffles and Effie’s Eggs.
Sister Helen Dowd, Executive Director Emeritus of the , sat with Sally McClure, the IEA’s Development Director. Sister Helen seemed to be enjoying her heaping plate of waffles and strawberries topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream. “It’s delicious!” she exclaimed. “I’m just glad that we come here often so we don’t have to wait another year to enjoy the breakfast.”
A few tables away sat two other loyal customers Eileen Russo and Pat Melley come to Effie’s every morning for breakfast. They, too, deemed the special waffles of the day “delicious.” Melley thinks that Effie’s is “a delightful place” while Russo complimented the staff. “They have some of the nicest waiters – truly lovely people.”
Effie’s owners, Charles and Effie and son, John, generously donate their establishment every year for the fundraiser. They have been doing business on Park Road for over 20 years.
“The Park Road Parade has been going on for 14 years. I now have kids who are coming to the parade since they were newborns. It’s a great family event. This just helps us raise money for such a great event. Everybody comes together, everybody works, everybody mingles. The breakfast is such a good community-based event and that is so hard to do because of everyone’s busy schedule. And yet, everyone still comes together and does it every year.”
Mayor Slifka is an old hand at dishing out the breakfast food, never missing a chance to help out year after year. “This is a quintessential West Hartford day. Everybody who lives this community who is either here in an appointed or an elected capacity or somebody who is just a beloved figure; they are all here in one place. It’s just a really happy day and it supports another happy day that’s a few months away. Then I think the added benefit we have shown in the last couple of years is that it shows how we have crossed the line into Hartford. We have so many Hartford officials here and I don’t think you find that anywhere else – not only in the greater Hartford area but anywhere in Connecticut, where two communities come together. It’s very organic and it’s just a nice happy feeling.
"It’s like your local diner where everybody knows everyone’s name and everybody is happy to see everyone.”