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Carraba's Italian Grill [Apr. 7th, 2012|02:37 pm]
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I've long since been a fan of Romano's Macaroni Grill. It was always a highlight when I was afforded the opportunity to indulge. Hell, I even wanted to work there under the delusion that it would be a fantastic job whilst I worked my way through school.

Oh, the folly of youth!

I did wind up and work there–for about three months. Any illusions I had about the joys of working there were shattered into a million pieces.

But I've always thought that the product they offered was a good product, even if it was over-priced. And hell, let's face it, you go to fancy restaurants not because you're hungry, but for the atmosphere. And if you can write it off as a business expense? BONUS!

One day, a long time ago, I blogged about Macaroni Grill. ehowton made the comment that he would never eat there again because he thought that the food was all frozen and simply brought up to temp at the restaurant. Having worked for Macaroni Grill, I knew that wasn't the case, but he assured me that it was and the times had changed since my employment.

One day, a Carrabba's moved into town. I continued going exclusively to Macaroni Grill. My visits became less frequent as I was navigating my own credit crunch, but I was loyal. For over five years, I never went to Carrabbas.

Until today.

See, over the years, I've watched Macaroni Grill go downhill. It used to be the case that when one ordered a Create Your Own Pasta, you could get arrabbiata sauce as a base for your pasta bowl. This is a spicy sauce that was made in-house. I know, because I got to be chummy with one of the cooks and she continued to make it for me even after it was officially dropped from the menu. But she left for greener pastures and my beloved arrabbiata sauce went with her.

You also used to be able to get black olives in your pasta, but alas, these too have disappeared from the menu. And whereas in the past I would have killed for their tiramisu, the last few times I've ordered it, I've gotten a much smaller piece than I remember them giving and it tasted like the recipe had changed. Again, I know that desert used to be made in-house because I've watched it be made with my own eyes and can confirm that the same coffee served to patrons after it brewed through the coffee maker was the same coffee used in the dish.

I've since switched to the Mamma's Trio, but the last time I was there, they took the lasagna off the fire way too soon. Whether this was delivered to the store frozen or was simply re-warmed from a previous day, I don't know. But what I do know is that over time, the quality of the product and service has went down at my local installation.

So today, being in need of nourishment that leveraged my money against someone else's time, I decided I would finally try Carrabba's.

There were two things that immediately stood out to me. The first was that while the prices were in range of Macaroni Grill, they were definitely on the upper end of that price scale. Additionally, their lunch menu did not seem to me to have the same range of choice as did Macaroni Grill's.

I wound up just getting a salad and spaghetti with meatballs and Italian sausage, with the house's White Ziff do dring. (I recently tried a White Ziff and I'm on a White Ziff kick now.) The Tiramisu to compare is much like Macaroni Grill's with the exception of a more-than-generous helping of chocolate shavings on top. At $7/a slice, it's not something that I would indulge in regularly, but at least the portion is the "correct" size, which is to say that it's larger than the last several pieces I've gotten from Macaroni Grill.

I doubt that I'll be back. I wasn't wowed. There is no wifi. Macaroni Grill is also absent this amenity, so no point either way. The lighting was dark to create mood, but fortunately my booth was under a light so I didn't have to strain to see anything. Honestly, Carraba's feels like a place that belongs in an airport: a "convenience" that has what they pass off as edible food at an outrageous price, attempting to make you feel good about parting with your coin by creating atmosphere through lighting, or the lack thereof.

This means I'll retain my loyalty to Macaroni Grill, but it also means that I'll be consuming Italian food a lot less, which is quite a statement considering that I haven't been to Macaroni Grill in months. (I think I've been twice this year. I think.) Stated another way, I need to find the dishes I like elsewhere, preferably at half the price.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: darkest_writer
2012-04-07 08:32 pm (UTC)

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I love italian food :)
From: (Anonymous)
2012-04-07 10:36 pm (UTC)

Food & Ideas

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It's a shame when places change that you like; especially I'd those changes are negative. However, I detect a bit of a food critic in you and I think it could be something you could continue doing in the future if price and taste allows. I may be about to offend your Italian heritage, but what about Olive Garden?

This is Andie, btw. Posting from mobile safari.
[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-04-08 12:01 am (UTC)

Re: Food & Ideas

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Andy,

You can log in through the browser on your phone. Furthermore, you can also use the app.

As for being a food critic, your words are too kind. I wouldn't know where to begin, although a similar thought crossed my mind whilst I was writing this sitting in Carraba's and that thought was thus: my film reviews usually have less to do with the film and more about how I perceived or enjoyed it, a kind of cross between reporting and Gonzo journalism. Baffle 'em with bullshit, if you will.

If I go elsewhere and feel it deserves a write up, I'll definitely post it, but I must defer to mrs_dragon as Huntsville's resident foodie blogger.
[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-04-08 12:08 am (UTC)

Re: Food & Ideas

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Thanks for reminding me about Italian Garden. I've never had any negative opinion of them. The reason I don't go is that their location is right next to a hooker motel that is down the street from a drug motel.
[User Picture]From: mrs_dragon
2012-04-07 11:04 pm (UTC)

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The best Italian food I've found in Huntsville: Tortoras
http://www.thediningdragon.com/2010/11/tortoras-45.html

Although, Raphaels was also surprisingly good (no ambiance, I would HIGHLY doubt there is wifi and it's in the middle of nowhere)

http://www.thediningdragon.com/2012/03/rafaels-pizzeria-italian-restaurant-45.html

This town has a total dearth of Italian which I just don't get at all.


[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-04-08 12:04 am (UTC)

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It's good to hear from you again.

I'll definitely give your reviews a look-see and add try them myself as money and time allow.

Btw, FatherPhoneix and I went to Schnitzel Ranch a few weekends ago. He thought that the food was to die for. While I enjoyed the meal greatly–it was hearty–I wasn't wowed there either, though I'll go back if I can ever remember their schedule.
[User Picture]From: mrs_dragon
2012-04-08 05:56 am (UTC)

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I've been pretty inconsistent with commenting, I've been catching up on life outside the internet and 2012 is shaping up to be the year of reading. There are whole evenings now where I never turn my laptop on! It's sacrilege I tell you.

If you only go to one, pick Tortoras, they are in Hampton Cove but their pizza, pasta, and salads are all great. They've also recently added a separate bar area.

I liked Schnitzel Ranch but my favorite German place is hands-down Hildegards. Pricey, but so wonderfully worth it.
[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-04-08 12:39 pm (UTC)

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I've wanted to try Hildegards. Again, it's a schedule thing.

Tortoras is on the top of my must try list.
[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-04-08 12:48 pm (UTC)

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I've noticed that you haven't been blogging as much. And you know what? Good for you for being able to keep your computer off. It's way to easy to get inside one's own echo chamber when playing on the Intertubes.

For me, 2012 is shaping up to be the year of maturity. I got the new job that doubled my salary and already I've spent a couple of days at work just researching a new (to me) technology to better understand the project I'm working on. I feel like 2012 is laying the groundwork for something much bigger; time will tell how events play out and how well-prepared I am for those events.
[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-04-08 12:06 am (UTC)

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dearth
Good word! I thought I knew what it meant from the context, but I had to look it up to be sure.

Speaking of writing, did you see that I mentioned you in my discussion of The Hunger Games?
[User Picture]From: mrs_dragon
2012-04-08 05:58 am (UTC)

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Dearth is a fun word. : )

I did. I was surprised your mom had that reaction because it's violent but not gory and the story doesn't really dwell on it. I imagine that she skimmed it or just read the summary and didn't actually read it. I was also a bit surprised that she was still vetoing your 16 yo brother's reading choices.
[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-04-08 12:43 pm (UTC)

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Even I was taken aback by her censorship. I mean, I get it if he's reading Playboy or whatever and she doesn't want that in the house. I could even understand if she were censoring certain anti-religous material. But a tweener book?

And let's put this in proper context. When I was growing up, Star Wars was thought to be of the devil, but now that he's the last one in the house, all the sudden it's fine and he can't get enough. Same thing with video games. But she draws the line here?

If you ever wondered about me, I think you just got a big insight into my past.
[User Picture]From: ehowton
2012-04-22 03:23 pm (UTC)

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Ate there for the first time yesterday; remembered this post.

Myself, my wife & daughter. Two entrees and a kids meal, one draft Peroni, one coffee, one soda ~ $50 + 20% tip ($10) = $60. My wife gave it thumbs up because she's been to Italy and is very specific about true chicken marsala which this place apparently makes by the book.
[User Picture]From: schpydurx
2012-04-22 03:45 pm (UTC)

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Thank you for adding your voice to this conversation. I'm glad she liked the chicken marsala. Alas, I haven't tried theirs.