Eating to Live on the Outside: Carino's Italian Grill

The Darth Vader theme song should be playing. Because get ready! Here comes another standard American restaurant. Now, without even getting into it, I can sense that Carino’s Italian Grill is going to be a commercialized-Italian food nightmare for even the most liberal Eat to Liver.

That being said, I’m not surprised. Just look at Fazoli’s faux-talian food and Carrabba's Italian Grill. These pseudo-Italian restaurants really annoy me. Io sono Italiano and I can tell you first hand, I’ve never sat down to eat a plate of my nonna’s “Italian Nachos” and “Skilletini.”

To paraphrase comedian Nick Di Paolo, these places call Baloney Alfredo authentic Italian cuisine—mamalukes! But be that as it may. With out any further ado, let’s crack open Carino’s menu and see what it’s got to offer—biting my tongue.

Well, the appetizers are tutto male—all bad. Something about the aforementioned Italian Nachos just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe its the oodles of cream and cheese? I wonder. The Sicilian Fire Sticks are another abomination; bacon, sausage, cheese—oh my! 

Moving past the appetizers brings me to a familiar menu section, the salads. My old adage holds true yet again. Salads are a bastion of hope for an Eat to Liver. Granted, most of Carino’s salads are more than iffy, but, there are a couple options worth running to.

The first is the house salad. It doesn’t say what’s in it, but I’m assuming it comes with lettuce, tomato, and onions—nothing wrong with that. Plus, Carino’s offers one of those never-ending salad deals; which is good, because if you’re like me you can plow through salad like a ruminant.

I might be persuaded into ordering the Honey-Pecan Salmon Salad; salmon with a honey-pecan crust, romaine lettuce, sun-dried tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, red onions, and lemon-caper vinaigrette. Truth be told, this isn’t a horrible dish; especially since salmon is on Dr. Fuhrman’s list of less-contaminated fishes. If I limit the dressing, I’d escape this meal relatively unscathed.

Okay, time to leave the comfort of the salads. Onto the rest of the menu—oh boy—well, if you’re feeling fishy you’ve got a couple more options. I’m talking about the Jalapeno Garlic Tilapia and Salvatore’s Fish Positano. Together they include tilapia, garlic, Roma tomatoes, jalapenos (how Italian), spinach, lemon butter cream sauce, pasta, green olives, black olives, capers, and white wine lemon sauce. To make these work I’m ditching the sauces. But even with those two unsavories gone, they’re not perfect. The salty olives and capers are a big concession and the pasta is a rough mission too. I’d opt for a salad. Oh, and Dr. Fuhrman recommends Tilapia as a safer fish as well.

You probably guessed by now. Even though I’m Italian, I rarely eat pasta—non mi piaciono gli alimenti raffinati. Making these next two dishes a big waste of time, but, maybe you’re more liberal than me. So, here goes. The Stuffed Roasted Vegetable Rigatoni includes rigatoni stuffed with portabella mushrooms, red peppers, yellow peppers, onions, asparagus, spinach, squash, and a creamy-cheesy marinara vegetables sauce. Ciao creamy-cheese sauce! Insert regular sauce. That’s what I’d do, but I’d still be left with the pasta concession. Now, given the amount of veggies in this dish, there’s a slight chance I’d order it, which would mean extra gym-time for me—bad Gerry, bad!

And finally, the Angel Hair with Artichokes has some potential. It’s made with artichoke hearts, Roma tomatoes, garlic, capers, basil, black olives, parmesan cheese, and angel hair pasta. Yup, a few problems here! First the capers are going bye-bye, then the olives, and then the cheese. What are you left with? Some veggies, pasta, and probably a bunch of olive oil—eh, if I went with pasta, I’d prefer the Vegetable Rigatoni. But again, a regular-old salad is probably the safest bet.

So there you have it—un dolore nel collo! Yet another standard American restaurant sliced and diced. There’s actually a Carino’s Italian Grill close to my house, but I doubt I’ll be visiting it anytime soon. But in the odd chance that I do, rest assured, I’ll be primed and ready to squawk about it. As for right now, check out Carino’s menu and let me know how you’d handle Eating to Live on the Outside. Shoot me an email at, or, make a comment. Until next time!
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Chris Flowers - May 1, 2008 10:26 PM


Good evening. I was wondering which Carino's was closet to you. I think that I could suggest some dishes that you would love. Please respond if interested.

Thanks for your time,

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