by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez / Thursday, November 4, 2010
Check out the Amici Club at Carrabba's Italian Grill
"High quality, flavorful, handmake Italian dishes served in a warm, casual environment. Food and hospitality are the passions here, and service is engaging and generous. Authentic aromas and distinctive flavors emanate from a lively and interactive exhibition kitchen where each meal is prepared to order. Many of Carrabba's recipes have been handed down in the Carrabba family for generations, originating from the family's native Italy."...is the concept of Carrabba's Italian Grill. I have to say...I think it lives up to those standards! At least our local one does. I think one of the coolest things about Carrabba's is their Amici Club. You become a Carrabba's insider of sorts finding out about special offers, new menu items and recipes first...discounts and special pricing occasionally...and the part I like best- special invitations to member only events like wine tastings, chef specials, and cooking demos! Last week, Mexi and I attended a local Amici Club event in which we took a "tour of Carrabba's."
As we waited for everybody to arrive, we gathered around the bar...which is so warm and comforting with its soft lighting and brick walls...
Carrabba's is only open for dinner, so we had the place to ourselves...just club members and the Carrabba's family prepared to cater to our wishes this day...
We were started off by tasting a couple of their own Sangria's...made right at the bar. I started out with a Blackberry Sangria and moved on to the White Sangria. The Blackberry version was pretty good...especially if you enjoy a sweet, fruity drink. But I definitely preferred the crisp, citrus punch that the White sangria packed!
After everybody arrived, we were divided into three groups to begin our "tour". We were all set to learn about three different "areas" of Carrabba's. Our first tour stop was Private Dining. Since Carrabba's isn't open for lunch, they reserve that time to hold private parties....business meetings, baby showers, family events...you name it! They provide you with flexible menus and setup options with choices and pricing sure to meet everybody's needs.
We were then brought a sample of their Lobster Linguine. Mmmm....so tasty! Please forgive my shoddy camera skills...taking photos inside of a restaurant is not something I have very much practice with. You may have noticed that I've never really done an actual restaurant review here at girlichef. I hope to slide a few in here and there, but I need to figure out how to make the food look as appetizing on the page as it did in real-time! It was simple, clean, and delicious with sweet chunks of lobster nestled between spinach, mushrooms and a garlic sauce with fat slices of my boyfriend aka garlic spiking it and a spicy kick to finish it off! I may or may not have swooned a little.
Our next stop on the tour was Catering. They had a section all set up with an example of what their large party carryouts may look like. We looked at their large, versatile menu and learned about the many options they offer people looking to bring home a taste of Carrabba's to share with family and friends.
We then got to sample one possible menu...using the takeout plates and utensils...so that we could get the whole experience. We tried Pasta Pomodoro, Chicken Marsala, and their Caesar Salad. I was thoroughly surprised at how much I LOVED, ADORED, COVETED their Chicken Marsala. It was SUPERB! The chicken was flavored beyond compare with the taste of their wood-fired grill and the sauce...aaaahhhh. Hands down the best Chicken Marsala I've ever eaten. Although Caesar Salad is Caesar Salad...it was a good one...the dressing was very nice. The Pasta Pomodoro...eeeehhh. Kinda boring. But it was easily forgotten as I floated dreamily to our final tour stop, the taste of bliss still on my tongue...in the form of Chicken Marsala.
Last stop... la cucina! The heart of the restaurant. An open-air kitchen that invites diners in and makes them feel at home. You can watch your meals cooked over their wood-burning grill...
...or in their wood-fired pizza oven...brought up every morning to almost 700°, so that it can stay at it's 600° cooking temperature throughout service. There are also seats that line that open-air kitchen...these seats are first come first serve and house the pasta bar and pizza bar menus. Fantastic. We also got a couple of samples here, but the pictures were even worse than the ones above, so I left them out. We tried a Pumpkin & Squash Ravioli...round and fat and spiced...served in a brown butter and sage sauce. Very tasty. But I was again astounded by a piece of chicken... their Parmesan Crusted Chicken was out of this world. I mean, maybe it was the crunchy parmesan and panko crust on the outside...or maybe it was the earthy sweetness of the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce that draped the chicken...probably a combination. That sweet smile was not about to leave my lips anytime soon.
...and what better way to end the tour than to be handed a takeout bag packed with a meal for two? I can't think of one.
So we shared our wealth with the kiddos when they returned from school that day...lasagna that is made by hand daily in each of the Carrabba's restaurants using fresh pasta sheets, homemade meat sauce, freshly grated cheeses and fresh herbs...a house salad w/ homemade Italian Dressing...and some mousse-like desserts.
Are you a member of Carrabba's Amici Club? And if not...how come!? Sign up now and you could soon be invited to a special event at the Carrabba's nearest to you.
*I was invited to this event, but was under no obligation to blog about it and I did not receive any compensation. I willingly signed up to be a member of the club once I experienced it first hand...just wish I'd known about it sooner...can't wait to go to the next event!
Michiana-based food writer with a fondness for garlic, freshly baked bread, stinky cheese, dark beer, and Mexican food—who believes that immersing herself in different cultures one bite at a time is the best path to enlightenment.