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Saturday after work and some shopping, my grandfather and I went to Carrabba’s for dinner. 

When my grandfather and I pulled up to Carrabba’s we noticed the parking lot was busy. We parked a little ways from the restaurant and wondered how long of a wait it would be before we were going to be seated. 

When we walked into the restaurant, instead of a wait, we were seated right away. The restaurant smelled of good food and there was the din of people talking, silverware against plates, and the televisions from the bar. They were showing the Euro 2012 games on the televisions over the bar. How do I know? That’s were we ended up. We didn’t have to wait too long before our server came over. The first thing she did, after welcoming us to Carrabba’s was ask if it was our first time eating there. It was. So, she went through the menu with us, mentioning how everything is fresh and made to order and if we didn’t see anything we had liked on the menu, to ask if they could make it and they would do their best. After she took our orders for drinks- we both ordered water- she left us to look at the menu.

While looking it over, I came across something that had said pasta dishes could be made with whole grain pasta. I love whole grain pasta, so I made a point of asking the server if that could be done with the Mezzaluna pasta dish. Unfortunately, because the filled pastas are made in advance, they can’t be made with whole grain pasta. Whole grain pasta or not, the Mezzaluna sounded delicious.

Half moon ravioli with chicken, ricotta and spinach in tomato cream sauce

However, before ordering our entrées, my grandfather and I were deciding what kind of appetizer we wanted. The calamari, something I have eaten since I was 9 years old because of my Nana, sounded delicious and different from how we would usually get it.

Calamari with marinara sauce or our spicy Italian pepper and lemon butter sauce

Spicy Italian pepper and lemon butter sauce? My first thought was can you even pair spice with lemon butter? I guess we would find out.

There is a special going on at Carrabba’s, Festa Di Carrabba, and it’s a separate menu than the one I had looked at. Basically, you get an appetizer or dessert, and an entrée for $15. My grandfather ordered from this menu and rather than getting a dessert, we got another appetizer: Wood Fired Flat-Bread.

Choose from Bacon and Caramelized Onion or Spinach and Goat Cheese

I don’t know who pairs bacon with caramelised onions, but the latter sounded far more appetizing and that is what my grandfather ordered. His entrée was the Chicken Piccata.

sautéed chicken breast topped with our famous lemon butter sauce, served with your choice of side

As a side, he ordered cavatappi with a red sauce, prosciutto and cheese.

We didn’t have to wait long before the plate of calamari and the flatbread were brought out.

I’d never seen calamari prepared this way before. But then again, I’ve always had calamari from the Olive Garden. From what I could already gather, Carrabba’s and Olive Garden are leagues apart.

This smelled absolutely fantastic. I’ve never had goat cheese (unless Feta counts) before and thus trying it on top of a flat bread with spinach would be the best way to go. I wouldn’t wait to pull the end piece off and try it.

I was apprehensive about the calamari. Yes, it smelled divine, but I had a moment where the look was about dissaude me from trying it. This was due in part to the fact that when I was putting some on my plate, I didn’t grab ringlets, I grabbed the little squid shaped ones. Inwardly, I was hyperventilating and having a flashback to when I was 10 and had ordered Calamari because I liked it so much. Except, we weren’t at the Olive Garden when I had done so, we were out on the Appalachian Trail and had come across this restaurant. I remember being giddy that they had Calamari and absolutely begging mum to order it. To my surprise, it wasn’t in ringlets, nor was it fried. It had been grilled and looked like the baby squid it was. Flashing forward 10 years, I was faced with this dilemma here. I could make out the shape of it and had this horrifying fear that if I bit into the bulb shape at the top I was going to get inked on. I know, real mature and foodie like of me, right? But, I drowned my fears in the lemon butter sauce, pulled my fork through it until I split it in half and popped it in my mouth.

Tentatively, I chewed and chewed some more. The texture was the same as how I’d remembered it to be and it had a better taste than what I had remembered. The calamari was rubbery (to be expected) and it wasn’t heavily breaded. There was already lemon butter atop of it, which gave each piece of calamari a kick. But it was a slow, delayed kick. The additional lemon butter sauce was really good and little flakes of red pepper could be seen within the dish and on my plate after I would spoon some over the calamari. It wasn’t a heavy or overpowering sauce and I would have liked to have more, but there was enough.

When I nibbled on the flat bread, I was hit by the creamy, tangy, and oddly earthy cheese that paired beautifully with the spinach. In addition to the spinach and goat cheese, there was barely a hint of garlic, just enough to be noticed but not enough to be overpowering. The bread was chewy, yet the bottom was crispy, if that makes any sense and I have a feeling that it was drizzled with olive oil. I couldn’t discern whether or not it was virgin or extra virgin, but it was there all the same.

Shortly after finishing up the calamari and the flat bread, our salads were brought out. Although there were two house salads or soup to choose from, I went with a Caesar salad.

They got a little happy with the cheese

After a few moments of mixing the cheese in with the greens, I tucked in. The salad was fresh, the lettuce still having a crisp texture. There was enough dressing, although as with the lemon butter sauce from earlier, I’d have liked more. The croutons weren’t “box” variety. They tasted to me like they had been made in house and were crunchy (I don’t know about you guys but soggy croutons are gross). As it were, there was a bit much cheese, but when it was mixed in with everything else, it wasn’t overpowering.

Not shown (because I didn’t think to grab a picture of it) is the bread that arrived halfway through eating the salads. The bread was certainly fresh out of the oven and very warm when it arrived on the table. To go with it was an olive oil and herb dipping sauce. The herbs toned down the flavour of the olive oil and I was left wanting to get every last bit with the bread, but didn’t. Something my grandfather and I noticed about the bread was that while it was fresh and hot, it was fantastic. However, when it cooled, it was almost dough-y. In that regard, I would have liked to have a crustier bread.

Finally, after salad plates had been cleared away, our dishes came. 

The ravioli were steaming still and looked delicate on the plate. These weren’t like those over-processed disgusting Chef Boyardee gunk. These were delicate and covered in a flavourful tomato, basil and cream sauce. Cutting into one with the side of my fork revealed a puréed mixture of chicken, ricotta and spinach. These, these were amazing. There didn’t wasn’t a need for bread sticks galore to go with this dish. These were a meal by themselves. They were fork tender, yet didn’t fall apart before arriving at my mouth. The sauce was perfect, not overpowering, not bland, there was the right amount of it. Everything about the mezzaluna pasta was delicious and I would definitely love to find a way to duplicate them myself.

Over all, my first trip to Carrabba’s left a good impression. The service was excellent, the host was friendly and funny, the server took good care of us, answering all of my grandfather’s and my questions without hesitation. I was reminded of a meal at my house, or with close friends. It’s not very often that I feel like I was invited into somebody’s home while I’m out to eat, so this meant a lot. The food was akin to mum’s. It was like I had walked in to our house on a Sunday night and Mum was finishing up a pot of pasta and the sauce had been cooking all day, with just the right amount of this, and the perfect amount of that. Will I go back? At some point. There are many other places to try, and I’m slowly building a list, but Carrabba’s left a good taste in my mouth. It’ll be worth going back again at some point or another.

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