I had a 15% off coupon for Carrabbas, so I decided to use it for lunch. Sometimes they say dinner only, but this one was good for lunch also.
At 2:15 the place was fairly empty with just a handful of tables. As usual, the bar was empty at lunch. The waiting area probably get's more use at night.
Carrabbas Waiting Area
They have a nice dining room here; the decor is upscale for a Carrabba's. This is one of the nicer location, which is surprising considering that Fort Lauderdale isn't exactly Greenwich, CT.
Carrabbas Fort Lauderdale Dining Room
They're not cheap with the booths here. I always get a booth. Of course it's always pretty dead by the time I get here. Why fight the crowds at 1pm when I can get a nice big booth after 2?
Carrabbas Lunch Menu
I ordered a Tea; they're not cheap with the lemons either.
Carrabbas Iced Tea
I ordered the wood grilled chicken and added soup for $2, because the sausage lentil soup is good here. You used to be able to get broccoli or spinach with it, but now they have some bad sides like garlic mashed potatoes or pasta, so I went with the veggie choice; a cucumber tomato salad. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it sounded better than the starchy choices.
The soup came out before the bread. It's always a bit different, which indicates that they make it each day. Today it had a pretty good balance of sausage and lentils; if it has too much sausage it can be too sweet. I give it a B+ today.
Carrabbas Sausage Lentil Soup
Bread came out 2 minutes later. It's not great bread, but the dip is excellent. If you sit at the bar they give you an olive oil bottle and you can make your own.
I was done with the soup and still hadn't gotten the chicken. I was in view of the kitchen so I could keep an eye on the chef. Not much going on back there; they're probably prepping for dinner.
Carrabbas Fort Lauderdale Kitchen
The chicken came out 15 minutes after the initial order.
Carrabbas Grilled Chicken w/Cucumber Tomato Salad
They're not much on presentation here. The chicken looked ok, but at the end of the day it was just a $1.50 cutlet. The salad was not what I expected, sliced grape tomatoes and cucumbers with no dressing at all. You can't eat this dry. I had to track down my server, which took a few minutes, and ask him for some olive oil for the salad.
Carrabbas Cucumber Salad
The chicken was good, but the "salad" not so much. They need some better vegetable choices.
Carrabbas Grilled Chicken
With the coupon, this came to just over $14. With the bread and the soup it's a lot of of food, but the entree wasn't worth $12 on its own.
Carrabba's is what it is; better than Olive Garden and this location is new and comfortable, with food that isn't really Italian but they have some good stuff. They have a good wine selection and Sangria is good and reasonably priced also. If you eat Chef Boyardee at home you'll love the food; otherwise you might not. Most of the recipes are overreach; Italian should be simple.
I was just looking to get out of the house on Sunday, with a bad Football game on, and the first Sunday in a while with no reason to go to a Sports Bar. I used to go to Carrabba's on Sundays back on Long Island, as a matter of habit, and I've wanted to try their new Shrimp Diavolo appetizer.
Happy hour starts at 3pm every day, and I got there at 3:45. There was 1 couple at the bar, and they were just cashing out. The bar is really just getting started at this hour; they were making all of their mixers and preparing for the shift. They have an open kitchen in the place, which was sort of a big deal before every other restaurant got the same idea. They don't have chairs at this location; some locations have a bar where you can sit at the kitchen and watch the chefs do their thing.
Carrabba's Fort Lauderdale Kitchen
I usually don't drink this early, at least not wine, but I like their sangria. The deal here on wine is that they give you a "quartino" for the price of a glass of wine; a quartino is a glass and a half ( note that a REAL quartino is 1/3 of a bottle, which is like 8.3 ounces. At Carrabba's it's 9 oz, to make it a full glass and a half).
Carrabba's Red Sangria
Normally, there's no bonus to getting the Quartino; the price of a quartino is 1.5x the cost of a glass. At happy hour, the Sangria is $6.90, which is a ridiculously good price. The "mix" is more than 2/3s alcohol (there's red wine and brandy in the Sangria), so you're getting a good bang for your buck. They're charging $12 for a vastly inferior Sangria at Big City Tavern, and they only give you about 6 oz of liquid.
All of the appetizers are 1/2 price during happy hour, except the crab cakes. I ordered the Shrimp Diavolo, which is normally reasonable at $8.50.
Football was on but no sound; no music. Kind of a very solemn atmosphere. The shrimp came out when I was about half done with the Sangria.
Carrabba's Shrimp Diavolo
Stuff never looks as good as it does in the advertisements. There are touted as "hand breaded in a house made lemon butter sauce with pepperoncini, red bell peppers and crushed red pepper". Sounds pretty spicy, eh? Not really. The sauce wasn't as flavorful as I expected. I can't knock it for $4.25, but if they were trying to catch some of the magic of Capital Grille's calamari, they've failed miserably.
By 4:30 a bit of a crowd has formed; I suspect that by 5:30 you'd have trouble getting a seat at the bar.
Carrabba's Fort Lauderdale 4:30 1/4/15
They don't offer bread at happy hour; I suppose this is how they save on the lower prices. I suppose that they'd give you bread of you ask.
The happy hour here is a good deal; and it's 7 days a week. They don't do a very good job of telling anyone about it, except for a sign on SE 17th street. It's hard to believe that people are piling into Tap 42 when they could watch the game here for less than 1/2 the price.
The first thing to say is that I had this meal at the Carrabba's in Smithtown, NY. This Carrabba's was the first one that I ever went to; For Long Island it's a pleasant place to go for a drink and a bite on a weekday night.
On a cold night where the day's rain had frozen to a sheet of ice on the roads, I sat alone at the bar in a largely empty restaurant. Not unusual for a Tuesday night on Long Island; but people were staying home with good reason.
I hadn't eaten all day, so I was eating tonight. Their current Special is Festa Di Carrabba, which is a 3 course meal with tiered offerings priced depending on the entree you choose. I've wanted to try the Brasato, which is a short rib, served over a parmesan risotto. This is the same combo that they had at Timpano before the owner "stupidly" removed it from the menu.
It comes with a soup or salad and an appetizer or dessert for $18, which is a deal and a half, considering that places down here are charging $30 for a short rib. I passed on the bread (damned diet); the soup came right out.
Carrabbas Sausage/Lentil Soup
The soup wasn't bad, but not as good as I remember it from the Fort Lauderdale Location. There was too much sweet sausage; I think this would be better with hot sausage, and less of it. Not bad, and low carb, and soup on a 24 degree night is soothing. Next came the short rib.
The short rib was under seasoned, which was surprising based on it's appearance. It tasted more like pot roast than a short rib, which is the sign of a misguided recipe. The "risotto" was nothing more than rice cooked with too much liquid; certainly not worth blowing up my diet for this stuff.
As I took my 3rd bite, the bartender asked how I liked it. "It's....OK", I said. "It's commensurate with the price". She seemed put off by the statement "You're the first one not to love it", she replied. Most people who dine at Carrabba's are culinary cretins, and most people lie when asked if they like things unless it's really terrible. The moral here is that if you don't want to hear the truth, don't ask the question.
I chose the "Chocolate Dream" for dessert; a concoction of brownie, chocolate mousse and whipped cream made into a pie and drizzled with chocolate sauce.
Carrabba's Chocolate Dream
The pie was not as sweet as I first suspected, but it was good. I planned on taking 2 bites and I took 4.
All in all, this is a terrific value. The dessert is $7 and the Soup is $4 (is that really only a cup?), so the Short Rib is arguably only $7. A lot of food for $18. As always, It's not little Italy, but decent food at a fair price.
Carrabba's has started to do what they call "Tasting Events" when they're launching a new menu, which seems to be seasonally. They send you an email and then you have to sign up at a location. I'd attended an event at the Pompano Location that was pretty interesting; this time I got into Fort Lauderdale.
The concept of this tasting was "fire-finishing"; each dish was supposedly finished in the wood-burning oven.
From start to end, the event here was completely different. In Pompano, they had a section of the restaurant allocated and it was very comfortable. Here, they had us sitting elbow to elbow at some pushed-together high tops. They also verified my email, which they didn't do in Pompano, so don't try to sneak into an event here. These events are supposed to be for "Amici Club" members, which is Carrabba's version of a mailing list. The couple next to me had never been to a Carrabba's before, so I thought it was odd that they got an invitation.
Most people were drinking wine, but it was too early for me to drink and only soft drinks were provided for free. One good thing here is that they started promptly; at Pompano they told us to be there at 4:30 and didn't start serving until 5:15, which was kind of annoying.
I got an iced tea fairly quickly and they put out 3 loaves of bread with 3 dips for 8 people; I don't really like sharing a dip with a bunch of strangers. In Pompano each "couple" had their own setup.
The first taste was "Fire Roasted Mushrooms", which are billed as stuffed with sausage, red bell peppers, fennel, sautÃ©ed onion, brioche breadcrumbs, artichoke hearts and romano cheese.
Carrabba's Fire Roasted Mushrooms
It was basically seasoned breadcrumbs; there was also a basil leaf stuffed inside which was unexpected. This dish is the product of an overaggeressive corporate chef. 1 mushroom per person; a sign of things to come.
The second dish was "Nonna Testa"; a penne pasta in a "pesto-cream sauce". They came around with a big dish and spooned some onto the same dish with the residue from the mushrooms.
Carrabba's Nonna Testa
This was the actual portion that I was given. I was kind of snickering, wondering why I'd wasted gas to come to this. As the server made a second pass I mentioned that I'd like to taste the chicken also, so she dropped a piece on the plate.
Carrabba's Nonna Testa
I didn't get the pesto taste; it wasn't very garlicky. Penne with cream sauce. The Zucchini: completely unnecessary and unwanted. Ok. Next please.
Next was the Cedar Plank Fired Salmon. Usually this is served on an actual cedar plank, but we just got a little square with a pile of "crabmeat stuffing" on top.
Carrabba's Salmon with Crab Topping
The stuffing seemed unnecessary; the salmon tasted like salmon; too raw on the inside to eat. I didn't taste any lemon butter sauce.
Something else missing was salt and pepper; there were no condiments on the tables at all. The salmon needed some seasoning.
Next was the Rigatoni Al Forno, which is described as
Rigatoni pasta tossed with our housemade marinara sauce, romano and mozzarella cheese, topped with Italian fennel sausage, mozzarella and fresh milk ricotta cheese then finished in our wood-burning oven until bubbly hot
Carrabba's Rigatoni Al Forno
This was the actual portion I was served; 3 noodles. I thought the sauce was bland and the pasta was overdone.
Next was the Bistecca Ardente, which means Passionate Steak. They describe this as a USDA center-cut sirloin, which means that it's supermarket quality. >Another dish with too many ingredients that don't enhance the main event.
Carrabba's Bistecca Ardente
The steak gets a nice flavor from their wood-burning grill. It would have been better without the stuff.
Time for dessert. A couple of spoonfuls of Creme Brule.
Carrabba's Creme Brule
This is good stuff; the layer of burned sugar (hard caramel) tasted like toasted marshmallow. Unfortunately, since I didn't have much food, I'd be eating dinner afterwards, so it was hard for me to enjoy the dessert.
At this point a server asked if I wanted a refill for my long empty Iced tea. I could have used it 2 courses ago.
As a bonus, they brought out a "Campfire Delight" specialty drink, described as "combination of Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka, RumChata and marshmallow syrup with a rim of chocolate sauce and crumbled graham crackers, topped with a Mallomar".
Not a bad drink, but are all of those ingredients necessary? How about having a Bailey's? And the stuff on the rim was not only unnecessary, but it made drinking it messy and uncomfortable.
My impression of the Event was that it was poorly done. These are supposed to be customer appreciation events; like a reward. But when they nickel and dime you, serve the "next" dish on the same dish as the previous one, and don't even give you a portion big enough to taste all of the ingredients of the dish; then it's just a charade. It seemed as if they were being forced into doing something that they really didn't want to do; like being at a bad party where they hope that you don't eat too much. As for the food, like many of Carrabba's recipes, they've lost sight of the fact that good food doesn't need 30 ingredients, and in fact too many ingredients is a bad thing. Don't ruin things by pretending you're smarter than 1000 years of culture.
I'll be taking the much longer drive out to Pompano for the next event, If I go at all.
Today I was doing a late lunch which would serve as my main meal of the day. It was pouring out and the bar was dead empty, so I got a booth.
I ordered an iced tea and looked at the menu; I noticed that the dish I wanted wasn't on the lunch menu. I didn't realize that they didn't serve the dinner menu all day. I asked the server and she checked to see if they could make it. They said they could, so I was in. I ordered the veal piccata.
It comes with soup or salad; the soup of the day, lentil and sausage, sounded good. I ordered a side of sauteed spinach with the veal.>
The soup came out momentarily.
Carrabbas Lentil Sausage Soup
The soup was excellent; perhaps a bit too much salt, but I don't mind salty. It was thick with lentils with chunks of sausage. Much better than expected. While I was eating the soup, they brought me a loaf of bread with olive oil dip; I really didn't want bread today but I did have a slice. The bread here is a variable; sometimes it's great and sometimes it seems like it could use another few minutes in the oven. They have good olive oil.
Carrabbas Bread and Olive Oil Dip
You get the full experience here. Music is old world; Sinatra, Richard Hawley and Diana Krall's "Frim Fram Sauce". The Veal came out before I had more bread than I wanted.
Carrabbas Veal Piccata
The veal comes in 2 sizes: small and regular. This is the regular. ($17.99). I wonder how much they give you with the small, which is only $2 less (a Darden inspired restaurant trick).
The spinach was competently sauteed in oil with garlic; its the perfect complement for the butter/lemon sauce on the veal. It would have been nice if they gave me a squeezable lemon rather than the fancy garnish; today's "chefs" are more about form than function. I struggled to squeeze out some juice; which is needed for the sauce.
Just as I was finishing my Iced Tea, I spotted my server pouring me another one.
No leftovers today; with the soup and bread this would easily serve as my main meal for the day. For $23, this is as good a lunch as you'll get in this town; surprisingly at Carrabba's.
Now if I this was my first and only visit to Carrabba's I'd say that this is a 4 star restaurant. But I know better. They have some weird recipes and some of the stuff that I'd normally like, like the Chicken Parm, isn't to my liking. Crab Cakes are Ok for a snack. I had the Spiedino Di Mare once: eh. I had a trout special once that was totally Primo.
It's sort of hit or miss, but the trend seems to be to stay away from the signature recipes and go with what seems simplistic. Or just come in for a Quartino of Wine and some bread with olive oil dip.
A location seemingly cursed with restaurants that nobody ever went to, Pazzo Cucina Italiana, Tara Steak & Lobster and most recently Taza just never seemed worthy of consideration when making your dining choices. When we heard that Carrabba's was taking over the space, we knew that trend was over. Carrabba's is a slam dunk.
A sister restaurant to Outback and Bonefish Grill, Carrabba's grills are comfortable places with nice bars, a good, fairly priced wine selection and a menu that leans Italian. Carrabbas on Long Island was one of my favorite places to stop in for a glass of wine and some bread. And once in a while I'd eat. It's better than Olive Garden, but if you're into serious Italian food you won't be impressed. Chain restaurant Italian food rarely impresses me. >
They've gone upscale at this location; this location is a very nice restaurant. With lots of marble and earth tones; it qualifies as one of the most attractive restaurants in Fort Lauderdale.
Carrabbas SE 17th Street
The original Carrabbas were more "old world". The bar are is large with big plank tables and 2 big screen TVs. Like most Carrabba's, the bar is a comfortable place to hang out.
Carrabba's SE 17th Street Bar
Happy hour starts at 4pm, but you can't get anything you want. Tap bears, mixed drinks are 2 for 1, but only "house" wines are on special; they give you a quartino for the price of a glass. A quartino, but carrabba's definition, is a glass and a half (actually it's 1/3 of a bottle but they overpour to make it 9oz). I didn't want their house wine, but I got a "Red" Sangria; not bad for $6.95.
I usually just get some free bread, but I wasn't staying long, so I just wanted something small. Unfortunately, Carrabba's is adopting some of Darden's bad policies of offering smaller portions for almost the same price; like $15.90 for a small and $17.90 for a large. So you just feel like a dope ordering the small, while the large is too much food. So I just ordered a pizza. Pizzas are all one size; you can get it with 2 or 3 toppings.
It came out fairly quickly. I'd never had a Carrabba's pizza before.
The pizza had meatballs and sausage, and I couldn't distinguish which was which on the pie. This wasn't really a pizza; more of a flat bread. The crust was very, very thin and there was just a small amount of sauce and cheese. Typical Carrabba's food. Not bad, but not really a pizza either.
This place will do very well; its a place to bring the family and the other choices in the area don't measure up to the casual ambiance. And while it's not great Italian food, you can get a nice meal here at a fair price.
Carrabba's Trio d'Italia Tasting Guide (08/07/2013)
Carrabbas Pompano 1299 S Federal Hwy Pompano Beach FL, 33062 (03/12/2012)
Carrabbas Delray 335 E Linton Blvd Delray Beach FL, 33483 (05/14/2011)
Carrabba's Italian Grill 6909 SW 18th St Boca Raton FL, 33433 (05/14/2011)
Carrabbas Plantation 1003 S University Dr Plantation FL, 33324 (03/28/2010)