Carrabba’s Italian Grill

7 Aug

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I had the opportunity to attend the Carrabba’s Italian Grill Tastemaker Event on Saturday at the Carrabba’s in Huntersville, NC. As an Italian girl, I am very picky about Italian food. Rarely do I go out to eat Italian as I can make it at home and in my mind, get a better value. But that doesn’t apply to Carrabba’s. I tried Carrabba’s for the first time about five or six years ago and absolutely loved it. It was real Italian food and not the fake stuff like some other chain, Italian restaurants. Who knew an Italian chain restaurant could be so good and well, authentic?  Well as authentic as I can imagine as I haven’t been to Italy….yet but still, good Italian food.

I am the kind of person when I go to a restaurant, I will try something different each time until I find that one dish that makes me happy and warm on the inside. At Carrabba’s, that dish is the Chicken Bryan topped with goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes with a basil lemon butter sauce (I am salivating just by typing it out the description)

 I never peruse the menu when I go there because I already know what I am going to get so when I arrived at the Tastemaker Event today, I was in for a world of schooling on the Carrabba’s way. We also got to bring a guest so I brought along one of my girl friends and we were ready for some Italian food!

 Marci, Proprietor


Mike, our host for the day with his wife Sarah-who also works for Carrabba’s. It was nice to hear that everyone who spoke today had been with the company for 10+ years. In my mind, they must be doing something right as a business for people to be there that long and be passionate about what they do.

The first thing he went over was their pesto sauce, which is surprisingly simple to make. Along with pine nuts, they use walnuts in their pesto sauce and use genevese basil as the base. Just watching him pour extra virgin olive oil for ten or eleven seconds proved to me that I have been making mind incorrectly all along. I haven’t been using that much extra virgin olive oil and always put the cheese in along with everything else while the cheese was the last thing he added. I also need a huge food processor like that, it is officially on my wish list!

The pesto was served with a Tomato Caprese Salad

Everything on the plate was completely fresh and the mozzarella had a mild yet rich taste. This salad didn’t need anything else to satisfy since it’s the perfect summer salad.  Did you know that mozzarella is made from milk of water buffalos?

The next dish we got to taste was the Linguine Pescatore with shrimp, sea scallops, mussels in a spicy marina.

This was excellent, the marinara had a bite to it and the seafood was fresh. I only ate half of it but boxed up the rest to take home with me 🙂

Next up was showing us how they made the Penne Franco -Penne with Mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and black olives, with ricotta salata

The key players

Thin strips of the ricotta salata to try. I am not a hufe fan of the ricotta mostly because of the texture but this was fantastic. It was salty and smooth and a complete 180 texture wise from the ricotta I’ve had in the past.

We had a choice of pastas to take home with us and I chose this one but here is a picture of the finished product

One last course to go after that and  that would be dessert. They made the Dessert Rosa-a simple dessert of butter cake, slices of strawberries and bananas, crushed pineapple, vanilla pudding topped with chocolate and Cool Whip served in a shot glass. These would be perfect for a summer get together!

The last thing we did was play with pizza dough. Mike asked if there were any volunteers to try it out so of course I volunteered along with one other.

Ok, so even though I worked at Papa John’s when I was in high school and my Italian background did not help one bit with this. I couldn’t the dough in a round shape at all and it was more oblong that anything. At least it didn’t look like a state or some other funky shape like in the past

I even got a $20 gift certificate for participating in the dough piece!

Our goodie bags to take home with us

I’ve never seen extra olive oil in a packet before, this made me smile!

Herbs and pine nuts

A huge bowl of olives. This right here is dangerous for me b/c I can’t keep olives at home without going through the entire jar. I am going to try to keep my paws away from these but will be seeing them in some meals in the near future!

Some things I learned about Carrabb’s today that made me love them even more:

*Carrabba’s along with Outback has been feeding troops in the Middle East for the past few years.

*They don’t advertise that they do this which is awesome since they aren’t doing it just for show, they are doing it for those who serve and protect our country

*Many of the dishes are those of Grandma Mandola and to this day, still true to the original recipe

*By watching them make their sauces and dishes, they use simple, fresh ingredients. When I go out to eat, I feel like I could never make that dish at home but that wasn’t the case today. I feel like I could make the stuff they make easily at home . Ok, it may not taste as good but it is possible and they don’t use ingredients or spices that I’ve never heard of.

*The first Carrabba’s was in Houston, TX. It’s nice to see a great, Italian restaurant from somewhere other than NY or NJ.

*The food is based on Sicilian recipes, which is probably why I enjoyed their food so much since my family hails from Sicily.

All in all, I had an excellent time at the Tastemaker Event. I loved learning about the Carrabba’s way and culture, their ingredients and processes and learning new fun facts.

Thanks Foodbuzz and Carrabba’s  for hosting this!!  The staff was more than knowledgeable and hospitable, welcomed us with open arms and was happy to answer questions. I truly enjoyed the experience and will be visiting Carrabba’s again for sure!

18 Responses to “Carrabba’s Italian Grill”

  1. Angela @ A Healthy Fit August 8, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    Looks like such a fun time!

  2. Autumn @ Good Eats Girl August 8, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    This looks like a great time! I love Carrabba’s! So good!

  3. dianacheung August 8, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    let me get this straight..this event was free and you got goodies to take home?!? WHAT THE HECK.

    • simplyshaka August 9, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

      I know right? Seems too good to be true but it was awesome!

  4. terri August 8, 2010 at 8:47 am #

    ohhhh i heart carabbas!it’s my favorite ‘chain’ restaurant… it, love it, love it! thanks for posting your most recent adventure! so fun and FREE! hollar! have a great sunday!

    • simplyshaka August 9, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

      fun and free fo sho, I love it and always forget about it since I really dont do chain restaurants. Hope your wk is off to a great start 🙂

  5. Amy @ Second City Randomness August 8, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    That’s awesome that you got such a delish looking night out! Although you make a good point. When I think Italian, I often think pasta- which I prefer to make myself. So when looking for a place, it’s usually not on top of my list…

    • simplyshaka August 9, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

      Exactly, I always think “Why go out for pasta when I can make pasta at home for alot cheaper?” but I think I would actually splurge on theirs.

  6. thehungryscholar August 8, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

    I’ve been there! I LOVE IT. 🙂

  7. eatmovelove August 8, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    Are you serious!!?

    Looks amazing. I love going out to Restaurants…happens in a blue moon, but you know 😉

    My fave are bar/grills – with the big fancy Daquiri’s to go with my pasta please 🙂

    • simplyshaka August 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

      A daquiri sounds mighty fine right now–even if it is 1115P! 🙂

  8. Lindsay August 9, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    How fun! I can’t help but think the olive oil in the packets is great. So convenient!

    • simplyshaka August 9, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

      Isn’t it fabulous? I kinda want to order some now just for the convenience factor!

  9. Mo Diva August 9, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    that is so awesome!
    and you even got swag! you go girl!

    • simplyshaka August 9, 2010 at 11:20 pm #

      Yeah but not as much swag as you 😦

  10. nic - the auspicious squirrel August 10, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    This post made me look up Carrabba’s menu… not much for a vegan, but some of your dishes did look pretty tasty… I think I could totally go for the dessert and the Penne Franco (w/o the cheese)… speaking of the cheese… when I did eat cheese and watched alot of ‘Everyday Italian’, I came across Ricotta Salata… I too enjoyed the dried, salted version of ricotta more than the ‘fresh’ ricotta we are use to seeing in Lasagnas. 🙂

    Btw, I too am of Sicilian decent… my grandfather’s parents hailed from Italy… I’m pretty sure it was Sicily. I’ve also worked in two different pizza establishments and consider ‘my’ Italian cooking better than most ‘chain’ restaurants… I, of course, have never been to Italy, much less out of the country, so who knows if I cook authentically. 😛 But my pizza and minestrone are something to be rivaled. 😀

    • simplyshaka August 14, 2010 at 7:09 am #

      Yay for us Sicilian girls!

      I’m the same way with my Italian cooking, I never go out for Italian b.c I feel like I can make something better at home for a lot cheaper.


  1. Weekend Recap « Simply Shaka - August 9, 2010

    […] seeing the cooking demonstration on pesto at Carrabba’s on Saturday, I decided to make my […]

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