Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Carrabba's Pizza

Family, friends, and food all belong together. In the perfect world of TV commercials, everything is delightful in such situation. But you and I are real people, and we know that’s complete BS. Of the three, there’s usually at least one that is cringe-worthy.

Perfect example: wedding rehearsal dinner. At Carrabba’s. Two families meeting and mingling. Random friends gossiping. Food and drinks available by pointing at the menu and pretending to be able to pronounce the names of Italian dishes.

So your alarm came on and is telling you that this is a rant about Carrabba’s. Well its not. Nyah!

It’s a rant about the dumbing down of food.

After a long afternoon of standing in the sun for the wedding rehearsal (sweating buckets), and being crowded all up between the merging families (all of them lovely but loud), I was in dire need of a glass of wine and a chair in the air conditioning. I got the chair. And the air conditioning. The wine was of the Welches vintage. I suppose that’s what I get for settling on a glass of house red.

Can I preface this by saying I prefer Carrabba’s to Olive Garden? The food is less out-of-a-freezer-bag than the OG. The atmosphere, a little less Disney. The menu is smaller, and has significantly fewer vegetarian options, but they are willing to switch around many of the options so you can customize dinner without raising the hackles of the waitstaff.

I grudgingly chose the Quattro Formaggi pizza (fancy way of saying “personal cheese pizza that’ll cost you upwards of $10”), and the aforementioned house red wine that was sugar water with an aftertaste of grape Nehi. It was something to do with my mouth while trying desperately to not say something stupid to the bride’s mother and brothers nearby. The rest of the menu seemed heavy on cheese and this was not something I was willing to risk the night before the wedding.

These chain restaurants cause conflict in my brain. I hate that they dumb down food. They squeeze any originality out of the food. In fact, each and every dish tastes pretty much the same. On the other hand, they provide diversion so that the real restaurants aren’t too crowded for the rest of us. And they usually have clean restrooms.

So I do approve of places like Carrabba’s, Chili’s, Applebee’s, and the OG. They’re great for family events with picky kids, retired grandparents, and those out-of-town relatives that are hard-pressed to name more than three types of cheese (the correct answer is: white, orange, and grated). Just don’t expect to enjoy the food there. Go with something safe and pray you don’t get indigestion.

(Please note that I completely edited out the following phrases:
“…is to food like New Kids on the Block were to the music scene in the ’90s…”
“…texture and flavor of a kitchen sponge…”
“…wine could remove warts and cure cold sores…”)

Oh, and I do have to thank the waitress who was fabulous in the face of the insanity of 25 guests with a wild variety of food issues. I hope someone gave her a martini or a swig of moonshine afterwards.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Gainesville’s is at 34th and Archer Rd (yes, with the trees on it)


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