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Carraba's: Feedback please?

We have traditionally had Christmas Eve dinner at an Italian place. Usually, it has been the chain Buca di Beppo, which was OK. Not great, but OK -- and kind of fun.

Our parish has moved the mass we attend a half hour later, and we need something closer than our local Buca. Plus, the last time I was at Buca, with friends from out of the country who love the place, it had gone rather downhill. The closest place is a Carrabba's. We've never been; is it worth a shot?

(Note: Don't be one of those posters who says, "Ew -- chain place" [this is the chains board, after all] or "Ew -- surely there's a local place with Northern Italian cuisine [or the Marches, or Emilia Romagna, or something]", because there isn't one. It's Carrabba's or not even vaguely Italian.)

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  1. We enjoy Carraba's. We like lots of the dishes, especially the pizza. I think it depends on the local one. The last thing I had was chicken, and it was a tad well-done, a blackened char on the bottom. Someone turned their back on the wood fire.
    The soup is good.
    I like it better than Olive Garden.
    I went to a Buca di Beppo for the first time down in AZ this summer... what a hoot!

    1. I was sorry to see our local Carraba's close a few years ago. The mussels were outstanding.

      1 Reply
      1. re: justicenow

        Glad to see someone else who thinks that. I love the mussels from Carraba's, and they will sell a half-portion, because even the appetizer is huge. When I went to buy Pernod to try to copy their recipe, I found out what a good deal it is! I also love the sausage/lentil soup. Those are my two favorites, but the rest of the menu is respectable for chain Italian. Definitely way above Olive Garden. It does vary some by location. Here in Houston, we have the original Carraba's restaurant, which was not sold when the chain was created, which can turn out some really good food!

      2. Carabba's is decent for being Italian Outback. Go for it.

        1. One of the better chains, but there's a lot of variation among locations. We've been to three:

          Reston VA: Very good
          Centreville VA: ok
          Lancaster PA: awful

          1 Reply
          1. re: Bob W

            ate at the centreville VA location twice. Never going back.

          2. My husband loves Carraba's, so we eat there all the time -- I enjoy it, too, and suffer from a mild addiction to their bread and dipping spice mix.

            He usually gets the spaghetti with meat sauce (I think it's a little bland), I like the sirloin marsala and minestrone soup. Sometimes the service/food at our local Carraba's (Fredericksburg, VA) is a little inconsistent, but overall, better than Olive Garden.

            1. I have only been to one location of Carrabas' but found it to be a notch above most other Italian chains. Not sure how they vary between locations, however. My mother went to a wedding this weekend and the rehearsal dinner food was from there and she remembered each dish, but couldn't remember much of the food from the yacht club for the wedding reception.

              If you don't have other local options, I think you will find Carrabas a good alternative.

              1. My family loves Carrabas.....the service for us has always been amazing....the Bread and Dipping Sauce is like no other....they make their own Fettucine....my Mom likes the Pasta Weezie and my husband recently had the Lobster Ravioli...to die for! I highly recommend!

                1. Oh and if you like Goat Cheese, the Chicken Bryan is Fantastic....they will customize anything you want whcih is great!

                  1. I love Pollo Rosa Maria. I even made the copycat version at home. It's chicken breast with proscuitto and a mushroom sauce. Delicious!!

                    1. I'm one of those people who can't find anything on the menu at Carrabas that I really want. I tend towards vegetarian meals quite frequently when I go out to eat and their menu doesn't interest me.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: smartie

                          I had a pasta dish with olives, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, etc. It was quite good.

                        2. Thanks for all the in put. We went, and were favorably impressed. Food, prices, portions all within acceptable parameters, good wine, nice little desserts. And the cute waitress was flirting shamelessly with our son who is attempting to follow up on that.