Friday, July 10, 2009

Under the Trees, Carrabba's Satisfies

If your palate can't descend to sample Italian unless the cheese was wheeled down the cobbled streets of Sicily in a creaky wheelbarrow, then Carrabba’s is not for you. If you are not gastronomically opposed to Italian via America, however, then give the comfortable setting of Carrabba’s Italian Grill a visit.

Once you internalize that you’re sitting in a building that looks like the terraced gardens on the South hill of BYU, you’ll notice how dim the terracotta kitchen-inspired interior is. The dark wood and sparse lighting give an air of romance and mystery, though the seeing-impaired might be wary. The seating seems always ample, despite the nightly clientele.

A friend of mine swears by the bruschette appetizer, which is generously topped with so many goodies that it’s almost a pizza. I’d say just wait for the free bread. This sourdough beauty comes steaming out of the oven onto your table with Spanish olive oil and herbs. A long wine and non-alcoholic specialty drinks list populates the menu, though the raspberry Italian soda is a bit of a milky mess.

The dinner salads are uninspired and seem to exist only to check off the box on casual dining’s imaginary “must have” list; though the large pepperoncini in the Caesar is a welcome addition.

Thankfully, your timely, dapper, twenty-something server will soon whisk away your salad woes. The warehouse-sized portion of lasagna has a pleasant and mildly surprising flavor that leaves one straining for the secret ingredient. Chicken Marsala is the unofficial diner’s favorite. Mushrooms and prosciutto top the entrĂ©e and a satisfying Lombardo Wine reduction dresses it well. Go for the mashed potatoes with the Marsala, though there are more adventurous side dishes. The cavatappi amatriciana is like curly spaghetti, yet was missing the prosciutto the waiter promised comes tossed in it.

Despite the Americanization of its food, Carrabba’s does offer authentic touches like pasta (imported from the Pompeii region) and Fontane cheese from France. The sauces, dressings, soups and crusts for the numerous styles of pizza are made on site daily.

If you didn’t bankrupt your appetite devouring the lasagna, invest in the cannolis for dessert. The pastry is dipped in chocolate and its pistachio crumbs and powdered sugar accessories give this ricotta cheese delight an unmatched edge. And if you mention somebody's having a birthday, you'll get one for free - no embarrassing singing involved.

Rating: Super good
Recommended: Lasagna, cannolis
Details: Carrabba’s is a national chain originating in Texas and offers call-ahead seating and large party carry-out. It is open seven days a week, handicap accessible and has a gluten-free menu. Most dishes range from $12-$20.


  1. I went to the one in Westlake, Ohio (near Cleveland) and it was great! We had four of us, including two teens, and we loved the food and the atmosphere. It was next to our motel and we just walked over and were very surprised.

    Good review