Thursday, July 24, 2008

Carrabba's - Lobster Ravioli and Cannoli

Your favorite Pensacola food critics descended upon Carrabba’s in full force last night. Your’s truly went with the Lobster Ravioli ($17) and ice water for the main event and Cannoli ($6) for dessert.

The Lobster Ravioli is described as Ravioli stuffed with tender Maine lobster in a white wine cream sauce with diced tomatoes. My plate arrived with a heap of beautiful ravioli and bright red tomatoes – no over-dressing. I like that. The food should be the star. I took a whiff before digging in and didn’t really smell anything, which is far better than that straight from the ocean smell you sometimes get with lobster dishes. After whiffing came biting - my first ravioli left something to be desired. But there’s one bad apple in every bunch, right? I thoroughly enjoyed the other nine apples, er, ravioli. Most of them contained nice big chunks of lobster which was indeed tender. I like a big chunk of meat – no unidentifiable mush for this critic, please. Oh – and the ice water was splendid. It did not taste chalky as many a glass of restaurant water I’ve sampled does. My only complaint – I was sucking air through my straw for most of the meal. I know water is the despised free drink, but it allows me to taste your food without some crazy cola infusion – so if you keep my glass full I’ll add that extra 30 cents to the tip that a $2 soda would have entitled.

Onward to dessert. The Cannoli is described as two crisp pastry shells stuffed with sweet ricotta and chocolate chip filling, topped with pistachios and powdered sugar. I chose this dessert because I have a hard time resisting anything with pistachios, not because my meal left me feeling hungry. The cannoli looked better than it tasted. Not that it was bad - it tasted good, the ricotta was creamy, the shell was crisp and the pistachios were great – it just so happened to be slightly more appealing to my eye (yes, just the one) than my tongue. By the way, the dessert portions seemed much more generous than the entrée portions. And if you can’t decide what to get, try the dessert sampler, which our waitress assured us is very “cute”.

I’m not sure where to rate my meal on the cuteness scale. Maybe somewhere between just cute and absolutely adorable…super cute??? Overall my meal was tasty and the atmosphere was nice. We were seated and served quickly despite the parking lot looking ominously full. Will I dine at Carrabba’s again? Sure. Will I order the same thing? Probably not – it was good but the plates of my partners in crime looked better (obviously I haven’t learned my lesson from the handsome cannoli).

The Low Down:
Italian entrees, desserts, wine
311 North 9th Avenue
Sun 11:30 – 9 p.m.; Mon-Thurs 4-10 p.m.; Fri & Sat 4-11 p.m.

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Lasagna and Dessert Rosa at Carrabba’s

Last night, as part of a special event, the reviewers here went to Carrabba’s, a chain restaurant that serves Italian food. The restaurant had a casual feel while trying to be formal at the same time. On one side of the restaurant, cooks worked over stoves and grills visible from the main room. Occasionally, a flame or two would catch our attention.

I ordered the lasagna, something of a classic choice for me. I’ve had lasagna from many places, from chains to local places, and this lasagna was average compared to what I’ve had before. The taste wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It did have pieces of sausage that caught me by surprise, but even that was somewhat bland. My biggest complaint with it was that it was small compared to some lasagna I’ve ordered.

After the lasagna, I ordered the Dessert Rosa. It’s a butter cake with several types of fruit layered above the cake and topped with whipped cream. The cake was soft and moist, and the fruit tasted fresh. It was fantastic, and I think that I’ll probably order it if I get the chance to go back to Carrabba’s.

The Location:

Carrabba’s Italian Grill
311 North 9th Avenue
Pensacola, Florida 32501

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Evening at Carrabba's

Someone in a land 'Far Away' has noticed this blog and sent us all gift certificates to Carrabba's Italian Grill. Thank you for your thoughtfulness. It was a nice treat.

So we decided to plan an evening where we'd all go together to review Carrabba's. I had a lot of fun going with the other reviewers and an enjoyable meal.
Upon entering and presenting the gift certificates, we were seated in a booth not far from where we walked into the restaurant. The booth had plenty of room for the four of us.

When it came time to order drinks, I decided my beverage of choice for the evening was going to be Coke.

By the time dinner had come around, I was definitely in the mood for steak. After carefully reviewing the menu in the restaurant (I had also taken a glimpse at the online menu earlier in the day), the decision was between the Sirloin Marsala and the Filet Fiorentina. I ordered the Sirloin Marslala ($18) because I decided I wanted a little more than just an 8 oz steak. I chose the Caesar salad and mashed potatoes to go with it.

I typically would have substituted a different side for the mashed potatoes since most of the places in town only serve garlic mashed potatoes, but the menu made no mention of garlic in these mashed potatoes, so I decided I'd give it a try.

All the food came out in a timely fashion to my satisfaction.

The Caesar salad was quite tasty. It was a healthy portion with fresh tasting green lettuce with just the right amount of dressing.

The steak was very thick and covered in a dark sauce and mushrooms. I ordered the steak medium-rare and it was delivered just as I ordered it.
The description listed on the menu is a "10 oz. USDA Choice center-cut sirloin topped with mushrooms, prosciutto and our Lombardo Marsala wine sauce."

There was a small side of mashed potatoes on the plate. Not a minute after the food was served the manager came by with a plate of mashed potatoes. He said the side of mashed potatoes I received on the plate was a little small, and he also went on to tell us they make their mashed potatoes fresh everyday. The great part was that the potatoes were mashed potatoes and not lumpy potatoes like I've received at other places.

I have to say, the steak was the most tender and juicy sirloin I've had in my life. I really enjoyed it. I liked the mashed potatoes. The plate of mashed potatoes that was brought out to me happened to taste slightly better than the mashed potatoes with the steak because the sauce from the steak was blending in with the mashed potatoes. On a side note, the picture of the steak doesn't exactly due it justice, it looked better in person.

The server checked on us frequently throughout our stay, which I appreciated. She said she happened to notice us taking pictures and offered to take a picture of all of us which turned out rather well. Personally, I don't know how anyone on that side of restaurant Could Have Missed that we were taking pictures with the amount of photos I took. Yes, that photo flash was very bright in that dark restaurant atmosphere.

By the time it came for ordering deserts, I opted out. I had already had more than enough to eat. All the deserts that were shown to us and the ones that were ordered all looked rather tempting.

If you're looking for a great dinner in the evening, I recommend ordering the Steak Marsala when you go to Carrabba's Italian Grill at 311 N 9th Ave in Pensacola, FL.

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Pensacola Food Critic