Where: Near Buckland Cinemas, Manchester, CT
Circumstances: In the past, Carrabba's has been dined at, because we planned to go somewhere else and it was too long a wait. This time, however, we were invited to go 'wherever you'd like', by my mom. We CHOSE Carrabba's. Even if I've been there before, I try something different, especially if I plan to 'blog about it'. I also, usually CHOOSE to stay anonymous when I blog (although, really...how can you if you're taking photos of the dinners?), But when the waiter, Peter, said we'd looked familiar, I'd told him my mom has never been there, but my husband and I have come twice before (and it slipped that I'd blogged about them before). I prefer to stay anonymous when I'm there as I get to see the 'real' service, but since I know this is a great restaurant with great food, I wasn't ready to leave because I'd blown my cover ahead of time.
We went at a really good time of day...4:45pm. A little early I know, but they open at 4pm and we thought, since they are right next to Buckland Cinemas, it may get busier closer to the movie times. It was perfect timing. Peter, our waiter, couldn't have been more helpful. He asked if he could 'go over the menu' (which we had him do since mom was a 'newbie'). While very thorough, he suggested some things that sounded great. Checked on us just the right amount of times without being intrusive. Even the new manager, Greg (from NH) came over to greet us. (I thought it may have been because my cover was blown, but I saw him talking to other tables. Whew!... Kudos to you, Greg. Nice touch.)
Okay, ... on to the dinners.
My husband easily chose one, his favorite of theirs, Pork Chops Marsala with garlic mashed potato. I tried some of his and it truly is divine! So moist and tender (and HE doesn't even like mushrooms and nothing was left on his plate, but the bones!)
All the dinners came with a choice of soup or salad, but I love a colorful salad and I remembered their's was a great combination of vegetables. I don't usually like onions in my salad, but I decided I'd try it... (I ate it all)
They serve crushed herbs (rosemary, basil, etc) and swirl the oil over it for bread dipping. I thought their salad dressing was so good that I'd dip in that, too! I'm sure they used extra virgin olive oil, but I LOVE the properties of grapeseed oil. Much lighter and less of the 'bad stuff'. Just an aside.
There were some interesting dinner choices, as they have a Trio D'Italia, where you get three different categories with three meals in each one. You pick one from each category and I really wanted to try one as the price $15.50 was just about the price of my other choice. I was only concerned there might be TOO MUCH FOOD! (There was just the right amount).
These were my three...
Sirloin Marsala* Wood-grilled and topped with mushrooms, prosciuttoand their house made Lombardo Marsala wine sauce
Mezzaluna Half moon ravioli with chicken, ricotta, parmigiana-Reggianoand spinach in their house made tomato cream sauce
Fettuccine Alfredo Fresh fettuccine tossed in house madeAlfredo sauce and Romano cheese
I didn't think about it until I cut into my steak, but no one asked how I wanted it cooked when it was ordered, and it came to me- perfect! The Marsala sauce has just the faintest hint of lemon, but a robust, smooth and savory flavor.
The ravioli was filled nicely with chicken and cheese, but just a hint of spinach. Was flavorful. The only complaint in the whole meal, was that I REALLY like my food hot. Not lukewarm... which is what I thought the fettuccine was. Not a lot of flavor in it either, and while it was 'warm-ish', I tend to eat the food on my plate that will cool off the fastest, first! That went first although I'd never order the fettuccine by itself in the future.
Mom chose this...Chicken Bryan, one of their most famous dishes. This signature dish consists of some of their favorite ingredients and grilling techniques passed down in the Carrabba family. This is a uniquely delicious combination of wood-grilled chicken topped with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and their hand-prepared basil lemon butter sauce (yummy). I tried this and although I was sceptical because of the goat cheese (never had it), it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious! I know my mom didn't care for the sun-dried tomatoes (as she pushed them to the side)-- actually she didn't remember that's what they were! LOL (Hey, she's 85 yrs old and started to forget things rather quickly).
This was the unexpected 'nice touch' of the night. A complimentary dessert for the table.
Sogno Di Cioccolata “Chocolate Dream”, truly a chocolate lover’s dream. A rich fudge brownie topped with chocolate mousse, fresh whipped cream and homemade chocolate sauce. They make the chocolate mousse and whipped cream in-house, which makes for an irresistibly fresh combination in this dreamy dessert. It was just the right touch for the end of the meal, perfectly split between the three of us. (No one really had room for dessert..... .....yeah, right....
All in all, for a $64 check (plus $15 tip) for the three of us, it was a nice evening out for our family. Our compliments to the chef.