The Untold Truth Of Carrabba's Italian Grill

Wine and Italian food? Say no more. Carrabba's Italian Grill is a chain restaurant that features delicious Italian-American cuisine. According to Statista, as of 2020, there are 199 company-owned and 21 franchised Carrabba's restaurants out there. We may be stopping by one of those locations for dinner later.

Besides the fact that Carrabba's Italian Grill is popular and the service is great, what do you really know about the chain? Founded in 1986, the Carrabba and the Mandola families founded the first location in Houston, Texas and a second location that quickly followed. Both families are still very involved in the restaurant due to the fact that family is an angle the brand loves to play up.

Outback Steakhouse noticed the restaurant's potential and opened 10 new locations in Houston and Florida. According to Fox News, the brand, now called Bloomin' Brands, bought the rights to the Italian chain and still owns it today (along with Outback, Bonefish Grill, and Fleming's Steakhouse).

The first two locations are still owned by the Carrabba family

The original two locations in Houston, which originally caught the attention of Outback and Bloomin' Brands, are still owned by the Carrabba family to this day. According to HomePerch, the family likes to focus on the Italian roots of the chain and emphasizes the family involvement.

The recipes are all authentic, and the concept of the "Italian grill" was created by founder Damian Mandola's father, Anthony. Anthony taught the family how to grill using steaks and chops where some of the chain's signature dishes were born. This is what sets this restaurant apart from competitors, due to many of the recipes genuinely coming from family traditions.

According to Fox News, several of the recipes were inspired by Mandola's mother, Grace, and his sister, Rose. With both families still deeply involved, there is even a cooking show on PBS featuring the two founders. It is named "Cucina Sicilia," and shows the duo preparing Sicilian food, including some classic Carrabba's menu items.

They will let you play with pizza dough at your table

Okay, this is something your family needs to know. Carrabba's lets the kids (and hopefully the adults!) play with a ball of pizza dough at the table to cure their boredom. This is for pure entertainment purposes and is a genius way to keep kids occupied. Who wants to wait for food anymore?!

If you want to take your commitment to the chain one step further, they even offer a special loyalty card. HomePerch explains that the card provides benefits and perks when visiting the restaurant, such as events and discounts. Some customer favorites include wine tastings, and cooking demonstrations.

This is not the first time Carrabba's has been generous, because in 2016 the grill gave away one million meals. You read the right, one million. According to Business Insider, this promotion was to celebrate the launching of over 20 new menu items. Customers who registered online could win free food with an emailed voucher. Seems like a very successful way to get people to try your new culinary creations!

The unhealthiest menu item is the Cavatappi Franco

According to The Daily Meal, the unhealthiest item on the restaurant chain's menu is the Cavatappi Franco. This dish consists of spiral-shaped pasta with grilled chicken, broccoli, olives, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and ricotta salata. Woah. The entire meal contains 1,266 calories, 1,917 milligrams of cholesterol, and 76 grams of fat.

As of August 2020, the chain is offering new menu items (and contactless payment!). The new menu expands upon homemade recipes and consists of some returning favorites. FSR Magazine claims that Rigatoni Martino, Tuscan-Grilled Ribeye, and the Grouper De Nisco are just a few of the most recent dishes. The returning classics include: Eggplant Parmesan, Cozze in Bianco, Mezzaluna, and more.

Carrabbas is always looking to evolve their menu, as this is not the first time they have added delicious new meals. Many of the recipes contain a red sauce with a recipe from Mama Mandola herself, so you know it has to be good.

The Chicken Bryan isn't named after a Bryan

The famous dish, Chicken Bryan, is not actually named after a person named Bryan. Consisting of a chicken breast with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and a basil lemon-butter sauce, the dish was concocted by co-founder Damian Mandola. Drooling. It is named after Bryan, Texas, the town where Carrabba's parents immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s (via The Daily Meal).

When asked about the Chicken Bryan on the Carrabba's website, Damian Mandola claims that "Italians have been grilling for centuries! Grilled and roasted meats and fish are very popular in Italy ... I created it myself." The family wanted to make sure that customers have the perfect meal from beginning to end. In order to do that, appetizers and desserts were created for the best meal pairings.

A popular appetizer dish is shrimp on toast prepared Scampi-style with white wine, a lemon butter sauce, and garlic. Mouth watering. Carrabba's Italian desserts are also not taken lightly; the chain has the classics, from cappuccinos to cannolis.

Their pastas are made in-house (and they have wood pizza ovens!)

Talk about authentic Italian food. Carrabba's is known to make their pastas in-house rather than purchasing them dried (via HomePerch). Clearly, this makes the meals much tastier — plus, fresh pasta can absorb sauce better than dried. The restaurant also offers a car side delivery that enables you to call ahead and pull your car up to the building. You do not even have to get out of the vehicle! Homemade pasta and free delivery are two of our favorite pastimes.

Additionally, the chain's pizzas are cooked in a wood oven, inspired by the signature Italian hand-tossed pizza style. The cooks knead the dough in-house and place it in wood grills for a smoky flavor. This causes the crust to be perfectly crispy, but softer and chewier in the middle. Excuse us while we pretend we are in Italy eating pizza — or, we'll just hit up a Carrabba's.