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Carrabba's and the most blatent lie ever!

So my fiancee and I were enjoying a relatively easy going dinner at Carrabba's in Brookfield, WI last night and she just had a side Caesar salad and minestrone soup. When the minestrone soup came, it had a rather light broth with it instead of the traditional tomato broth or vegetable broth with tomatoes. When I asked the waitress if the soup was indeed minestrone since they do have a spicy chicken soup with vegetables on the menu. She said, "Yeah that's the minestrone soup, we just don't dye our broth". I didn't know most restaurants who use tomatoes in their broth use red dye in their soup, I'm surprised I've never seen it on the recipes for it.

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  1. I've never heard of broth being dyed either! I'm guessing the server just didn't know what she was talking about! It might be the case where you call or send an e-mail to the restaurant manager to inform him of the error! So he may use the information to educate his staff!

    2 Replies
    1. re: sweetnspicy

      Carrabas servers take an extensive, exhausting written test, that asks for every ingredient on the menu. Although some servers might make-up answers, most servers ask if they dont know-I get this question about our minestrone all the time. My managers answer is that it is not tomato-based and has a relatively small amount of tomatoes. Maybe the manager gave her the dye response. Dont always blame the server

      1. re: serverlicious

        Wow, that must take a long time to have to learn and remember all of that! You wouldn't happen to know what is in the spicy chicken soup, would you? I used to eat there with my family all the time but I moved from Michigan to California and I've been craving that soup so much lately but there aren't any Carrabba's out here! And not to press my luck, but would you also know the herb blend that is served with the bread? Thank you so much!

    2. In general, how did you like Carrabba's. Any recommendations? There is a new one close to where we live (Central NJ) but we haven't ventured there as somebody told us it is somewhere between Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill and I have been disappointed too often by average but ultimately unsatisfying Italian food in a chain place.

      10 Replies
      1. re: FoodFetish

        It might be sacrilege to admit to liking a chain restaurant on CH, but I have been very impressed with the Carrabas near me in the NY Capital district. It is near my mothers place and I take her there sometimes - the service is always courteous and patient, which I appreciate as she is elderly with some problems. They always let us split entrees ( which are huge anyway) and will customize orders graciously.
        We usually get grilled salmon - without the fancy toppings - it has been consistently excellent. Fresh, perfectly cooked ( ie NOT overcooked). We also get their pasta as a side - also perfectly cooked al dente . Fresh and crisp salad.
        Perhaps we are lucky and have a good one here - I suspect they might vary, but I am amazed by it as a staunch skeptic of chains.

        1. re: LJNew

          I haven't been back to Carraba's since, oh, about 1999.
          I ordered some chicken dish, and when I cut into it the chicken was still very pink. So I tell the server and he says, "Well, we cook our chicken medium(as in medium-rare/well)." I couldn't believe my ears. I responded with, "Anything short of well done for poulty is a health hazard...where's your manager."

          At that point I realized that they don't even train their staff to know basic food preparation concepts.

          1. re: mamamia

            You probably had the Pollo Rosa Maria which is stuffed with paper thin prosciutto and looks under cooked when you cut it open. And as far as training the staff anyone who handles food whether its a cook or server they MUST complete a food safety class. You may have had a new server and just like anyone else gets nerves when under pressure. You should give carrabbas another try.

            1. re: mismac

              "anyone who handles food whether its a cook or server they MUST complete a food safety class"
              says who???????<VBG> this varies by jurisdiction and health district. In many jurisdictions in New England only one manager or owner needs to have a food safety certificate, and no classes for kitchen staff or servers are required.

              Your average 16 year old at the fast food burger joint probably never had to take a food safety class. I know my kids didn't when working part time at the big 3 burger joints.

              1. re: bagelman01

                In Florida, it's all staff and servers who might touch food. Had to keep everything on file regarding that when I ran a Meals on Wheels program down here and all my paid people had to have their little Florida food safety certification card.

        2. re: FoodFetish

          ...It might be sacrilege to admit to liking a chain restaurant ...

          I fully agree. As much as Carrabba's is a chain restaurant, it is hands down, the most highly consistent (chain or not) in providing flavorful, authentic Italian food. I live in FL, where every other building is a restaurant or food retailer of some sort. Carrabba's is wonderful and I have never had a bad meal there.

          My favorite dish is Rigatoni Martino. Large rigatoni with huge pieces of grilled chicken, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and grated ricotta salate on top. Another fave are the Mussels - beautiful wine and garlic sauce.

          The calamari is second to none and never cooked over a minute and 20 seconds. (Can you tell I sit at the pasta bar??) Have them bring you BOTH the Ricardo sauce and the marinara.

          Your first meal at Carrabba's will mark your last meal at (gasp!) Olive Garden (if you ever dine there). I promise.

          Great for a celebratory dinner or any ordinary Tuesday night - Carrabba's never disappoints.

          1. re: chiffonade

            I agree. It's the best chain restaurant. I love their grilled dishes.

          2. re: FoodFetish

            As a foodie, I'm embarrassed to admit that I, too, am a fan of Carrabba's Italian Grill. When I'm in the Orlando, Fl area,there are chain restaurants galore. Of course there are some lovely restaurants that can be expensive (non-theme park restaurants). However, for an inexpensive and well-prepared meal, Carrabba's is head and shoulders above the rest of the chains. I like their chicken dishes and their pasta.

            1. re: FoodFetish

              I went there on a recent trip to Boise, having never heard of it (I'm in L.A.) and I could tell it was a chain as soon as I walked in. I expected Olive Garden and was very impressed with the good food! I was actually quite disappointed that there isn't one near me. I think the closest is Arizona.
              I had a chicken dish that was topped with goat cheese, lemon butter sauce, sun dried tomatoes, and basil. My friend (who had been before) recommended it and it was really good. I will definitely go back if I get the chance.

              1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

                There are 2 in the Las Vegas area. Not much closer than Arizona, but possibly somewhere you'd have more likelihood of going.

            2. I must admit that I like Carrabba's too. I have a favorite entry that I aways order - the Chicken Brian (I think it's called). It's chicken breasts with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes over pasta with a really yummy sauce. In fact - maybe I'll suggest we go there tonight since I'm now salivating just thinking about it!

              1 Reply
              1. re: HungryLetsEat

                Its chicken Bryan, named after the town of Bryan Texas. Very good dish.

              2. OK jfood will bite.

                Did it have chicken in it and was it spicey? Or did it have veggies in it and was minestrone?

                And jfood congratulates you if this is the most blatant lie ever. And to your question, NO jfood has never heard of a resto, even Carraba's, dying their soup.

                1. As others have already stated, this is undoubtedly a case of either a mis-informed waitress or (more likely), a waitress who is not very good with terminology. Probably she meant to say that their minestrone is not "colored" with tomato, rather than saying something about dye being normally added to that soup.

                  Incidentally, I agree with those who stated that they like Carabba's. Although I prefer Mom & Pop places, the one Carabba's that I have patronized has actually been quite credible. I have found the food at Maggiano's to be virtually inedible due to the astronomical sodium levels, and I consider Maggiano's to be vastly overpriced. I consider the food at Macaroni Grill to be mediocre, and I think that Bertucci's seems to be a bit better than MG. Carino's is actually pretty good, in my experience. As to Olive Garden--if you had never tasted Italian food, this might be an OK place to go. For anyone who has been to Italy, it is a no-go, IMHO.

                  So, if one is headed for a chain-operated Italian restaurant, I think that Carabba's is to be recommended as the best of the lot.

                  1. Reminds me of a misadventure many years ago at a Legal Seafoods in DC. I ordered the Maryland crab soup. What they brought was turmeric colored, curry flavored, and very spicy. I insisted that they must have brought me mulligatawny by mistake. They insisted that that was their corporate recipe for Maryland crab soup. Whatever.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Loren3

                      Ha! That seems to be common--waitstaff trying to BS customers that they got what they ordered, rather than admitting their mistake. I had that crab soup recently, and it was great and as described on the menu, but did not even remotely resemble what you received.

                    2. I personally really like Carrabba's. I eat at the one in Bricktown. Their steaks are great.( I was told Outback owns Carrabba's, makes sense.) The mussel app with wine and tons of garlic is soooo tasty!! Everything the four of us ordered was wonderfulI. In fact, last week we went to Piccolo Italia, and I like Carrabba's better!!!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Barbarella

                        Outback (actually OSI) has an ownership interest in Carrabas, Lee Roy Selmons, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Bonefish Grill, Flemings, and Roys.

                      2. Let us know what you find out re: dyeing of soup after you hear from the manager or the chain. I, too, am hoping the server didn't really know what she was talking about; afterall, there aren't THAT many red, tomato-based soups served in chain restaurants or anywhere, so maybe she thought it was a novelty?

                        Another "Italian chain" question: anyone eaten at Johnny Carino's? We got one in the Detroit area about a year ago and we've been there several times because my fiance and parents love it; I can take or leave it, because I have a hard time paying $15 and up for something I can cook at home better. Each experience has had varied results, but generally okay for the price. They offer unlimited soup, salad, and bread (which any chain place should be doing to keep up with each other), but they definitely don't ask if you want more. The Caesar salad is good by restaurant standards. However, a TRUE stand-out is their calamari appetizer. I decided to try it this past weekend. I got the single portion since I didn't know if anyone else at the table wanted any. The single portion, for $8, was too much for 3 of us! It was breaded, seasoned, and fried perfectly and had a very pleasant marinara to accompany. Just wondered if anyone else has been there, since we're on the topic of Italian chains.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: amandaqtpie

                          I have been to Johnny Carino's, and agree about the calamari appetizer. In fact, I generally make that app my meal with a side salad. Add a frosty cold beverage and I'm happy.

                        2. That's ridiculous.
                          If you ever get to Houston and eat at one of the two Carrabba's restaurants that are still owned by the family, you'll see how good Carrabba's can be.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: zorra

                            Hear, hear. The original ones are still great. I really don't like the chain Carrabba's. The food is too dumbed down.

                            1. re: zorra

                              Which Carraba's in Houston are still owned by the family?

                              1. re: danhole

                                The one on Kirby Dr. is the original and still operated by the family, I believe. I thought the other one was on Woodway but b4-u-eat does not have one listed there so maybe it was the one on Voss.

                                There are other options if you want to stay in the Mandola-Carraba family of restos - Damian's on Smith, Vincent's and Nino's on W. Dallas, and Tony Mandola's on W. Gray, not to mention Pronto Cucina, their quick-casual (upscale fast food) places) and Mandola's Deli on Leeland, a different branch of the same family.

                                1. re: brucesw

                                  Mmmmmmmm! Nino's! Damien's! Vincent's! Fantastic!

                            2. Count me in as someone who likes Carrabba's. It's a great place to take our child - very child-friendly and the adults can have a reasonably good meal and a decent glass of wine without having to succumb to Applebee's or whatever. I like their Caesar and the fact that when I ask them to go light on the dressing, they do rather than just make me have it on the side. I've had their minestrone and, while it was good, it's not what I think of as a traditional minestrone.

                              The rigatoni marino is good, the mezzaluna is good, the chicken Bryan is great although not exactly heart-healthy ;> The only thing I've had there that I wasn't fond of was the calamari.

                              I find the prices to be reasonable as well given that we always leave with enough leftovers for another meal.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dalaimama

                                I concur on this one. The Mandola brothers know their food, and the Houston locations are my favorites. Im going to be in Austin this week and will probably take my customer to the Carrabba's there because he likes it and so do I. I will investigate this "dyed broth" question with the Mandolas when I see them next. You can condemn them for being a "chain" but sometimes the "chains" can get it right too!

                              2. I never heard of minestrone without using tomatoes (hence the red color).

                                Is it just me or does Carrabba's have the best bread and olive oil spice mix combo?

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: billyparsons


                                  Voila! Yes, the best spice combo (and darn it, without that pesky SiO2! You can add your own at home, though, ha ha!)

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Why'd you have to post the recipe? Now I'm craving the bread and I have to drive down to the Jersey Shore for Carrabba's. Maybe I'll just sprinkle some sand on a bagel instead.

                                    1. re: billyparsons

                                      I make a good size recipe, without adding the wet ingredients, give to friends, and keep the rest handy in the pantry to mix up with the oil. Go get that bread, make the recipe, and bury the sand! :-}

                                    2. re: alkapal

                                      Thank you for the link. Now off I go to make that recipe to serve with tonight's dinner.
                                      There's a Carrabba's near us so I guess I'll have to try some of the recs y'all have posted here.

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        Gio, most welcome you are! FYI, the excellent olive oil they send home in the little plastic prepackages (for takeout) is a brand called Borges, but is marketed in grocery stores as Star Extra Virgin Olive Oil.


                                        PS My sister loves Chicken Bryan and my Brother in Law the chicken caesar salad.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          Interesting site. Thanks for that as well. I see that I can buy Borges in my area (Boston) at Hannafor'd and Shaw's. I'll have to try it.

                                  2. I love Carraba's!! Our food has always been excellent. My favorite is Rosa Polo Maria. The bread and olive oil is great. I have never been able to eat my whole meal. Leftovers are great the next day.

                                    1. Corporates usually start great and dumb down to pre -made frozen over salted mushy food, I won't even start about the cheesy brainwashed service. Carrabba's is great because the food is still all made fresh, from scratch, on the premises, constantly. They have a great steak connect from Outback steak house. Awesome steak or fish cooked on a cedar wood burning grill with traditonal italian sauces and very fresh adente cooked veg's or pasta with a choice 15 different tomato sauces. All the dressing are made from scratch... meaning if you order ceasar salad .. they actually squeeze fresh lemon juice and hand grated aged parm reggiano cheese, and it was made within 3 days of you eating it. corporate or not .. there are no sauces coming out of plastic frozen bags, the fish comes fresh NOT FROZEN every day, the desserts are not full of corn syrup and chemicals you've never heard of, the bread is served hot with a great expensive herb mix. Every tiny detail has been worked out, the owners spend a lot more money in labor and food cost then any other chain and in most restaurtants in general.. meaning you are REALLY getting a bang for your buck. you couldn't cook this food at home for less. Finally, a chain I can eat at on vacation!!!
                                      one negitive note : they are a little heavy on the salt but its all made it order so if your sensitive just let your server know.
                                      oh .. and enough about the waitress ... when you go to chain ... you judge the food, you should go in knowing your going to get some smiley maybe clueless college student, corporates give there servers 3 table sections, they don't make enough money for this to be there forte... and as far as soup at carrabba's goes .. the spicy sausage and lentil is out of this world.

                                      1. Hello good to see so many Carrabba lovers on here! I have been a Kitchen Manger for Carrabbas for 3 years now. To answer the minestrone question, our broth is not red at all, even though it does contain chopped tomatoes. The flavor of our broth comes from the initial browning of the traditional, carrot, celery, onion mixture. Getting the proper caramalization at that step in the soup making process, will make or brake your soup. To clarify, traditional minestrone's are usually not red, that is more of a canned soup thing! Fresh food always is what i love about my kitchen! When you come sit at either of the bars overlooking the open kitchen for the full experience(here you can get free samples and desserts and interact with the cooks). It always a learning exparience for most of my customers. Hope this helps!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Carrabbas Chef

                                          Any chance you could let me know the ingedients/recipe for the scampi sauce for your shrimp scami appetizer???

                                        2. Not to get off the subject, but does anyone know the receipe for their buttery garlicky sauce that is served with their mussels? That sure is good!!!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Barbarella

                                            This is a possibility for dinner tonight. Can someone tell me what their dessert options are? I didn't see any on the website.

                                            1. re: dream_of_giusti

                                              Hi Dream_of_giusti,

                                              To answer your question which it might vary by location but at the store i work at we have.

                                              Mini Desserts- Served in a shotglass

                                              Desert Rosa- A sweetbuttercream cake w/ vanilla pudding, fresh strawberries, pineapple and bannana topped with whipcream and a chocolate covered strawberry.

                                              Sogno di Cioccolata-A double layer brownie cake that is brushed with Kahlua and layered with chocolate mousse and whipcream. (My Favorite)

                                              John Cole- Bluebell vanilla icecream W/ Caramel sauce and topped with rum roasted pecans

                                              1. re: dream_of_giusti

                                                We've sat at the kitchen bar before by the dessert section and been the happy beneficiaries of some "mistakes". I can vouch for the John Cole, and our local resto also has creme brulee and tiramisu. All have been yummy.

                                              2. re: Barbarella

                                                It has garlic, lemon juice, lemon butter sauce and pernod

                                              3. i love their fetticuine alfredo chicken carrabba with those delicious peas
                                                i dont think ive tried their minestrone before but i do remember they have a delicious spicy chicken soup

                                                1. The local restaurant critic summed it up nicely in this week's review;

                                                  "Yes, it’s a chain: one that employs Central New Yorkers, serves them what they want and does it well, and there’s no point in being too much the snob to be thankful for all three."

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: al b. darned

                                                    Is it possible to get an admin here to post that quote at the top of the Chains Board? I may just have to steal it to post every time I see one of those Olive Garden discussions :o)

                                                  2. I was a server at carrabbas for the four years i was in college and the minestrone soup is a light color mainly because the blocks of cheese they add to it while cooking.

                                                    1. I agree with those who said that they think the"dye" reply was server error, I'm sure she wanted to please you by answering your question, but she obviously didn't know what the heck she was saying. Who puts dye in soup?!

                                                      Carrabba's minestrone is different from any I've tasted in a restaurant, definitely not your classic minestrone...it's very hearty, HUGE chunks of fresh veggies and lots of savory spices...it's nothing short of delicious when prepared properly. However, this soup is not tomato based (to my dismay, as I am a vegetarian) it's broth consists of mainly chicken stock, so that's why it isn't RED in color. *My friend works at our local Carrabba's, so she's got the inside info. ;)