Monday, May 10, 2010

Review of Carrabba's Italian Grill

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and Carrabba's.



This contest is now closed. Thanks to all of you who entered!

When I was first contacted about conducting a review for Carrabba's Italian Grill, I jumped at the chance. I mean, really, who doesn't appreciate date night on someone else's dime? I will admit, however, that I was hesitant about dining at Carrabba's. Would it be like any other Italian chain restaurant, with mediocre food, indifferent servers, and a penchant for turning tables faster than McDonald's?

When my husband and I first arrived at Carrabba's in Orem, Utah with our friends, we realized that we unwittingly visited on high school prom night. This had two effects on me - I felt very old and exceedingly underdressed all in one fell swoop. After adjusting my taffeta-less blouse and decidedly uncoiffed hair, and doing my best to raise my head high to smooth out any wrinkles threatening to form on my neck, I was set to enjoy the evening.

Once seated, we were promptly greeted by our server, Steve, who was pleasantly enthusiastic, professional, and attentive throughout the evening. As Steve left to fill our drink orders, the manager of the restaurant presented us with a plate of appetizers, on the house, as an apology for our wait. Now, I do not think this is standard restaurant policy. By this point, the manager realized that I was there to conduct a review and was hoping to make us as comfortable as possible. Regardless, we enjoyed being able to whet our appetites with the items on the plate.


Often, I find that restaurants serve calamari that is covered in a batter so thick that the squid is unrecognizable. Carrabba's calamari, which is available in two sizes, was lightly battered and served with a fantastic marinara sauce. Even though I was trying to save room for the rest of the meal, I had a difficult time not polishing off the tender squid on my own. Alongside the calamari Mozzarella Marinara, Carrabba's version of the popular breaded appetizer. While the breading was tasty with the addition of herbs, we found the pieces of mozzarella to be rather thin, thus being overwhelmed by the crust.

One of the things that impressed me the most about Carrabba's menu was that many of the dishes are available in two sizes, small and regular. Often I find myself ordering an appetizer and salad for dinner because I know that many restaurants serve entree sizes that could feed an army platoon. With the option to order small portions at Carrabba's, you do not have to order more than you can eat or, in these lean economic times, more than you can afford. Many of the entrees, which are served with a choice of soup or salad, start at $12.

To sample as many of the menu items as possible, we each ordered a different dish, sticking with the small portion sizes. Our choices ranged from classic Italian dishes such as Chicken Parmesan and Veal Piccata to wood-burning grill specialties, such as Pollo Rosa Maria and Filet Florentina.

One of our friends ordered the Pollo Rosa Maria, which is a grilled chicken breast stuffed with fontina and prosciutto and topped with mushrooms and a basil lemon butter sauce. Well, you simply can't go wrong with melted cheese and salty prosciutto. Topped with the tangy, smooth sauce, this chicken breast was both luxurious and satisfying.


Our other friend chose the Chicken Bryan, which is another entree prepared on Carrabba's wood burning grill. The grill imparts a pleasant smoky flavor that does not overwhelm the food. Topped with a round of goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, and the basil lemon butter sauce, this dish promises great flavor. While the texture of the tomatoes and goat cheese were complimentary to the moist chicken, the acid in the lemon butter sauce was a bit overwhelming when paired with the tang of the goat cheese.


You never know what you are going to get when you order salmon in a restaurant. Will it be dry and dense, or moist and tender? We were impressed by the preparation of the Grilled Norweigan Salmon that my husband ordered. The moist fish was topped with a mint and tomato salsa which, appropriately light-handed with the mint, was a fresh accompaniment. While the salmon was a good dish overall, it could have benefited from an extra dollop of salsa.


For my entree, I decided to go for the gusto and ordered the Filet Marsala. I was presented with a very generous filet, topped with sauteed mushrooms and a marsala wine sauce. In my opinion, there is no point in ordering a good piece of beef if you are going to ask for it to be cooked beyond medium-rare. I went one step further and ordered mine rare. The kitchen did not disappoint. My filet was tender, juicy, and beautifully pink inside. Paired with the rich, flavorful sauce, this dish was my personal favorite of the evening.


At Carrabba's, each entree is served with garlic mashed potatoes, cavatappi, or the vegetable of the day, which was a choice of broccoli or spinach. Two of us chose spinach and the other two chose broccoli. Those who chose spinach definitely came out with the better end of the deal. The spinach, sauteed to perfection with olive oil and slivers of garlic, was a light, fresh side dish. Unfortunately, the broccoli was overdone and lacked the fresh taste of the spinach.

Even though we each ordered the small portion sizes, we left feeling satisfied. In fact, I would even say that we felt relatively guilt-free, both nutritionally and monetarily. Good food, good wine, and good friends all add up to one very pleasant evening.

The generous people at Carrabba's are offering a $100 Carrabba's gift card to one lucky commenter. All you have to do is answer this question.

"What great things come in small packages?"

Please, no duplicate comments.
You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
This giveaway is open to US Residents aged 18 and older
Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail, so please be sure that you leave an email address.
You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

This giveaway runs from May 10 - June 10, 2010.

Please see the official rules for this giveaway here: Official Rules

To read the other bloggers' reviews of Carrabba's and for 9 more chances to win, please check out the BlogHer review/giveaway round-up page.
BlogHer.com special offers page

For more information on the menu or to find the location near you, please visit Carrabba's site.

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89 comments:

Mami2jcn said...

My baby girl is something great that comes in a small package!

mami2jcn at gmail dot com

Amy said...

I'd definitely have to say credit cards are great things in small packages (if you don't get yourself in debt, that is). :)

Rebecca Graham said...

My cell phone is a nice small package.

rhoneygtn at yahoo dot com

Rebecca Graham said...

Tweeted: http://twitter.com/rhoneygee/status/13755707891

rhoneygtn at yahoo dot com

Anna said...

i am very petite so i think great women come in small packages :) also, one time there was a long wait at our local Carrabba's- and hostesses were passing out little appetizers to everyone! nice touch :)
ann.altima at gmail dot com

Mommy Niri said...

My 3 year old - she is tiny for her age - I guess they say dynamite comes in small packages too :-)

GladysMP said...

Man, looking at all the delicious-looking dishes you showed has my mouth watering. I even was pleased that you mentioned all of their dishes come with potatoes and the vegetable of the day. Spinach would please me, for it is said to be so healthy. I like broccoli, too.

Katrina said...

Tiffany's usually come in adorable pretty blue small packages haha. :)

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

Being the caffine addict that I am, I have to say espresso! All that big, bold coffee flavor, and a nice zing of caffine in a teeny-weeny cup! Perfect!

L Kimberley said...

Desserts can come in small packages. Personally, I love to get a few Carrabbs's deserts and share. Just a few bites is heaven! YUM!

Alyssa said...

diamonds! Couldn't resist -- my wedding ring came in a small package, and it is the most beautiful (aside from my kids, of course) that I have ever seen!

4evaRisa said...

A box from Tiffany's with a ring in it

Kiki said...

I think the best thing to come in a small package is the little munchkin I am expecting in November. He/she started out as a tiny, almost invisible, bundle of cells in a petrie dish just a few months ago. And after nearly 3 years and 6 miscarriages, we can't wait to meet this perfect little gift :)

nickels11(at)gmail.com

Nichole said...

Dim sum would have to be my favorite type of little packages for delivering great things. =)

hope said...

I am very petite and come in a "little package," but my favorite little package will always be a Tiffany blue box!!!

heide Presse said...

my son, although he's no longer a small package at 6'2"!

heidepresse@gmail.com

Lionmb said...

I think my favorite thing that comes in a small package is diamond earrings!

Suzn said...

The lobster ravioli at Carrabba's comes in a small package....with wonderful pieces of lobster...so delivers LOTS of great flavor!

M. Viola said...

My daughters started out in small packages as babies. Now not so much, but love them to pieces!

Anonymous said...

CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!! it comes in relatively "small" form but it brightens many a day, revs up many a night (chocolate covered strawberries anyone?) *wink*, comforts many a tear and tastes ohhhhh so goooood!! what would the world be without it? i shudder to think ;-)

adeana
www.pinkladygumbo.com

Amanda said...

My two boys are my favorite small packages!

Jessa Smith said...

I'm a huge fan of a local cupcake shop that puts individual cupcakes in tiny packages.

They're not just great, they're awesome.

jessajill@gmail.com

Scott said...

Individual sized ice cream- enough to satisfy but not too much to feel guilty over!

Mari said...

Airplane tickets- we love to travel!
If you go to Carrabbas may I suggest the Chicken Bryan...
It is amazing!!!

Amber said...

A great thing that comes in a small package...me, I'm 5 foot tall ;) Hehe. Actually I'll say chocolates :)

shevilkenevil1 at aol dot com

Thanks!

Amber said...

I tweeted for an extra entry:
http://twitter.com/lipstickncandy/status/14064285907

shevilkenevil1 at aol dot com

Fiddledeedee said...

Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies. And the packages keep getting smaller and smaller every year. :(

julie@eatingwithyoureyes.com said...

My idea of a good thing in a small package - Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles!

cdziuba said...

Hershey's Kisses. I enjoy a few every day, a little treat in a little package!


cdziuba@aol.com

cdziuba said...

I tweeted http://twitter.com/cdziuba/status/14092917254

lynn said...

My 2 Granddaughters are my favorite small packages! Ruby Ann is 18 months old and her little sister Penny Lou 6 weeks old! I love being their Nonnie!

Kristin said...

Hmmmm…good things in small packages…definitely Hershey’s kisses!

JulieD (thelittlekitchen.net) said...

Lots of things come in small packages but I would have to say the best are puppies and kittens!

thelittlekitchenblog (at) gmail (dot) com

Bunnyfreak said...

Dark chocolate comes in small packages.

Annette said...

My chihuahua. Just don't tell her that she is small, she thinks she is a doberman.

annbr1217 at aol dot com

SandyE said...

Love notes come in small packages... :D

sandy underscore erb at email dot com

Thanks!!

Karen said...

Jewelry is one great thing that comes in a small package

Bonnie said...

I've gotten into couponing and getting free samples, so my favorite small packages are those I find in my mailbox, filled with goodies to try!

Brandie said...

The earrings my husband gave me is the greatest thing that came in a small package. I love 'em.

Suzanne aka vivisue said...

Pinto Beans!

Amy said...

Children!

Gail said...

My triplet boys are the greatest thing in a small package....but nothing is greater than a Bacino Dessert Rosa!!! YUM!!

Ursula said...

Dark chocolate mints, big taste, small bites.
uheeter at comcast.net

Jennifer H said...

Now, I want shrimp and scallops and chocolate and spinach; all of these things come in a small package.

jenniferhemp at msn.com

Brooke of summerbrookegardens.com said...

Dark, rich, decadent chocolate truffles! mmmmmmm yum!

Jamie said...

Hmmm, I think I would have to say chocolates or jewelry.

Eve said...

Jewelry is my pick. I love them and they are quite small.

shopgurl101 at gmail dot com

Eve said...

Tweeted: http://twitter.com/shopgurl/status/14607123068

shopgurl101 at gmail dot com

Eve said...

blogged: http://wp.me/plE9t-nH

shopgurl101 at gmail dot com

Cheryl said...

not new, but how can you top it---chocolate and jewelry. Love it.

Megan said...

I think jewelry is the best thing I've ever gotten in a small package!

megan said...

a puppy is small, and I would love to have a tiny puppy delivered to me in a small package :)

Carolsue said...

The new smaller portions at Carrabba's AND gift cards both come in small packages!
digicat {AT} sbcglobal {DOT} net

Drew said...

The new smaller portions are smaller and so is the gift card I hope to win!
Pudyqat2@aol.com

MrsMatched said...

I think the very best small package I ever received were my two daughters! And diamonds, of course!

TNRepublcn at aol.com

MrsMatched said...

I tweeted this giveaway!

http://twitter.com/MrsMatched

Anonymous said...

As a pregnant lady I am going to go with babies...they are definately small packages with infinite greatness!
ranirocks11@yahoo.com

Danielle Destrade said...

My engagement ring came in a small package but it was the best thing that has happened to me! A Carrabba's dinner would be such a great celebratory treat for my almost-hubby and I :)

ral said...

A key is a gift that can come in a small package, but they can be to almost anything: a car, house, a heart...

susitravl said...

So many things! My puppy (tiny 4 lb chihuahua), babies and bite sized Reese's PB Cups.

Mama Schell (aka Jen) said...

Too many things to list by my favorites are babies and diamonds!!

mamaschell1 (at) gmail (dot) com

3 Boys and an Old Lady said...

Of course babies are one of the greatest things to come in small packages, but OMG their cute, lil' clothes are adorable too.

tclarkusa at gmail dot com

3 Boys and an Old Lady said...

I tweeted.
http://twitter.com/Panda_SpaceCamp/status/14848267135

Cheryl said...

I blogged about it - :)http://pompandsustenance.blogspot.com/2010/05/list-of-10-with-nothing-in-common.html

elizabeth said...

As a grandmother to a 2 year old I have to say that toddlers are great things in small packages. Amazing how much joy this little girl brings to our family.

Mami Texana said...

Small packages? right now my baby girl, she is 3 months old...I can't stop kissing her cheeks.
mama_contemporanea at yahoo.com

dawn said...

Wasabi - small package is all you need.

christine said...

Babies, diamond rings, and airplane tickets.

Becky said...

Books!

jeanette_huston@yahoo.com said...

This refers to my kids;-)

Jeanette Huston
chewysmum79@yahoo.com

jeanette_huston@yahoo.com said...

I blogged thig giveaway here

http://www.mommyblessingsinsmallbundles.com/2010/06/blogher-reviewers-try-carrabbas-and.html

Jeanette Huston
chewysmum79@yahoo.com

jeanette_huston@yahoo.com said...

Tweeted

http://twitter.com/josephvh1982/status/15214760582

Jeanette Huston
chewysmum79@yahoo.com

ccboobooy(charity) said...

Hugs & kisses from my little boy.


charisscharity at yahoo dot com

ccboobooy(charity) said...

I tweeted the giveaway.

http://twitter.com/ccboobooy/status/15267396137


charisscharity at yahoo dot com

dianne said...

It's got to be my kids ... but at 8 lbs. 13 oz. and 9 lbs. 4 oz. they were on the big side for little packages!
dmlash04@msn.com

Susan B. said...

The bestest small packages are grandbabies!

Dawnalee said...

A rolls of quarters when you're a student to take care of parking and laundry.

Orem is our Carrabbas. We've had the manager deliver free appetizers or their delicious house sangria, and the chef send out a dessert he was inventing to get our opinion. The service has always been superb. . .and methinks the guys all wear the "Steve" name tag. :o)

Cristin said...

My camera is a GREAT thing that came in a small package. I use it to capture all of the special momments that my family has, from the birth of my children to a family trip to the lake.

~dab said...

Babies! The biggest blessing in the smallest package :)

~dab said...

I tweeted (using your RT button) http://twitter.com/simplydab/status/15509982103

~dab said...

I blogged :)

http://pointsofreview.blogspot.com/2010/05/review-of-carrabbas-italian-grill.html

Rachel Stuckey said...

honestly, tampons.

Doffiedee said...

Power -- from a battery.

Melinda said...

Cupcakes - small and delicious!

jOY said...

KITTENS ^-,-^

MJHARVEY26 AT YAHOO DOT COM

Mrsfatface said...

Jewelry is one of my favorite great things that come in small packages!

Anonymous said...

all great things...babies, marriage (the diamond at least), a proffesion (the diploma) knowledge...

Stephanie and Matt said...

Our soon to be newborn baby son!

Julie M. said...

So many things! I guess I'd have to say my three boys, who all started out as small packages, but have quickly gotten bigger!