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

This week Eating to Live on the Outside hops on the first gondola back to the old country—well the commercialized Americanized version of it anyhow. Now, if you’ve been keeping up with this series you know for every Go Raw Café, Baja Fresh, and Just Salads there is an armada of unhealthy eateries, i.e. the Outback Steakhouses, Ground Rounds, Friendly’s, IHOPs, and Sizzlers of the world. Carrabba’s Italian Grill certainly leans towards the latter.

After a few seconds of scanning the menu you’ll notice it’s primed with cheese, butter, olive oil, and prosciutto—Italian bacon! Damn you bacon! Is there no escaping your greasy stranglehold? Sorry, I had a moment. I’m better now, let’s continue. Personally I’m going to be especially vigilant about the cheese, butter, and obviously the prosciutto, a.k.a. bacon. I’m more lenient about the olive oil, but I’ll do my best to limit my exposure to it.

Okay the first item I’d order would be the Minestrone. Being a full-blooded Italian I can honestly say I love Minestrone. There are lots of veggies in there and it fills you up, but there’s a catch. Minestrone also contains pasta, usually the refined grain unhealthy stuff. Personally, I’m okay with this concession, but if I were to order it, it’d be awhile before I ate pasta again—no sense making a habit out of it!

No surprise here, but the next dishes I’d consider ordering are salads. First you’ve got your basic house salad, which is usually a safe option (provided you limit or omit the oily dressing), but I’m also intrigued by the Insalata Fiorucci and the Insalata Carrabba. Are they perfect? Oh no, there’s some nit-picking to do. Sure, between the both of them you’ve got field greens, artichoke hearts, roasted red bell peppers, grilled eggplant, tomatoes, black olives, carrots, celery, and red onions. But there’s also plenty of stuff to make an Eat to Liver head for the hills; a hazelnut goat cheese medallion, and mozzarella and romano cheese, not to mention the vinaigrette. For me the solution is pretty clear, I’m cutting out the cheese, I can go either way with the chicken (of course some of you might prefer to ditch it), and I’d use just a teeny tiny bit of vinaigrette. See with a few alternations you’ve got a decent meal, take a moment and ponder all the phytonutrients.

Next in line is the Grilled Salmon. Many of you already know that Dr. Fuhrman classifies salmon as a smart choice if you like fish and are worried about mercury. Although I think it’s wise not to go over board with the fish (pun intended), I try not to eat it more than a few times a month and its almost always salmon, tilapia, or some other variety of low contamination fish. Carrabba’s Grilled Salmon is prepared with the “chef’s sauce of the day”, unless you know the chef personally you might want to ask the wait staff about it. This dish also comes with your choice of garlic mashed potatoes, spaghetti pomodoro, cavatappi amatriciana, or the vegetable of the day. I’d go with the vegetable of the day. I know what you’re thinking. What the hell is the cavatappi amatriciana? I asked my Italian speaking mother and here’s what she said, “Cavatappi is a corkscrew. Amatriciana sounds like a name or type.” Clearly that doesn’t shed much light on the mystery. Forget about it, and move on with your life.

I wish I had more positive things to say about my paisan Carrabba’s Italian Grill, but despite its Mediterranean namesake, it’s just another standard American restaurant teeming with the dregs of the standard American diet. How SAD.

Oh, and don’t forget, we want your feedback! Tell us what you might have done differently or what you agree with. Check out Carrabba’s Italian Grill’s menu and let us know how you Eat to Live on the Outside? Leave a comment or email us at
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Chrystie - April 24, 2007 5:22 PM

Prosciutto is cured Italian ham, Pancetta is cured Italian bacon.

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