If the soup is uninspired, my entree would be described as the polar opposite. I went with the wood grilled salmon with a side of Italian green beans. The salmon, made without the grill baste, came topped with a tomato basil vinaigrette that was downright tantalizing. Made with flavorful tomato, aromatic basil, and deliciously distinctive balsamic vinegar. The fish itself was cooked perfectly, easily sliced by a fork. The green beans, cooked with olive oil, featured curls of red onion, which added a complementary flavor. They were still crispy- just the way I like them- and had a summer-fresh flavor. All in all, it was a downright delicious pairing, and one I will not soon forget.
Ultimately, my evening at Carrabba’s was a success, as my whole family was able to enjoy themselves, and I was able to eat more than boring grilled chicken with unflavored broccoli. Our waiter, LT, deserves the highest compliment for his hospitality and assurance that he’d look out for my food. While the service was impeccable, the kitchen was unusually- and noticeably- slow that day, really unusual from my past experiences. I hope this was an anomaly due to the holiday weekend, but it really was the only negative of my experience.
I’m glad the Carrabba’s has decided to double down with their commitment to the gluten-free community, and hope that this commitment extends to include Italian delicacies such as pasta and/or pizza. I really hope that someday I can enjoy those specialty dishes with my family at the restaurant, but in the mean time will be back for the wood grilled salmon.
Update 12/12/2015: Since my last visit, Carrabba’s has undergone a gluten-free game changing menu evolution. In addition to now marking gluten-free options on the main menu and adding additional dishes to chose from, Carrabba’s now serves up gluten-free pasta. At a visit to a location in Hickory, NC, I got my first taste at the new pasta: casarecce. When I ordered, I requested mine be made in fresh water and a cleaned pot to prevent cross-contamination. I ordered the linguine positano which features grilled chicken, crush tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil. The simplicity of the dish it’s strength and it is hands down among the best restaurant meals I have ever had. My only complaint is that the dish is a bit salty, but I can totally overlook that one flaw and will definitely be ordering this dish again.
While there, I also had the minestrone soup, which now no longer has to be ordered without pasta. After my mediocre perception of the chicken soup, I was impressed by this soup because of it’s rich, flavorful broth and perfect concentration of vegetables of all shapes and sizes. The cup portion is perfectly sized to be an opening act for any entree.
Update 12/31/15: My family returned to Carrabba’s for New Year’s Eve. I tried the chicken lettuce wraps small plate as an appetizer. It’s gluten-free and dairy-free without added cheese on top. The chicken is tender and accentuated with vinaigrette-tossed vegetables and drizzled with a port wine reduction. The portioning is perfect to share, or a quite substantial precursor to the entree course.
Update 1/1/17: I returned to Carrabba’s again for New Year’s Eve and decided to try something new-to-me: the wood-fired tilapia with the Italian side salad. The salad was good, with a nice vinaigrette dressing and blend of tomatoes, onion, carrots, lettuce, and olives. The tilapia was lacking in flavor, relying on the fragrant basil and balsamic vinegar to carry the responsibility of taste. The fish itself was pretty flavorless. I was informed the grill baste for the asparagus is not dairy-free, so had to do without and instead go with an olive oil coating. The asparagus was also pretty flavorless and rather unimpressive. Next time, I’m definitely going to stick with the pasta.