Questions & Answers
To learn more about Carrabba’s Italian Grill, here are some questions asked by our guests.
Johnny & Damian on Carrabba’s:
Before Carrabba's it seems as if no one had ever heard of the Italian grill style of cooking. It has opened a whole new world to going out for Italian. How did you come up with this style of cooking and the amazing recipes (like my favorite Chicken Bryan)?
-Jill H., Jacksonville, FL
DAMIAN: Italians have been grilling for centuries! Really, Italian food is much more varied than the spaghetti and red sauce that has come to represent Italian food in America. Grilled and roasted meats and fish are very popular in Italy. As for our recipes, some were my mother's and my grandmother's, and many, such as the Chicken Bryan, I created myself. We're so pleased you've enjoyed it!
Our family ranks Carrabba's #1 when it comes to dining out! Sometimes circumstances dictate ordering carry out. Most restaurants do not offer takeout let alone reserved Parking spaces and the convenience of bringing your order to your vehicle. How did you invent the splendid idea of Carside Carry-Out?
-John S., Jacksonville, NC
JOHNNY: We're so pleased you've enjoyed our Carside Carry-Out! We recognized the fact that people's lives are only getting busier and more hectic and that there isn't always time to dine out. Consumers are looking for quick but good home meal replacements. So it was our goal to develop a carry out program that would be convenient for our busy customers! With our Carside Carry-Out service, you don't have to get out of your car! We have guests who come in their pajamas!
I love sitting at the Kitchen Counter when my husband and I eat at Carrabba's. What gave you the idea to let customers be able to dine and enjoy watching your excellent staff prepare such wonderful dinners?
-Katie V., Jacksonville, FL
JOHNNY: Whenever we're together with the family, we all hang out in the kitchen. It's where the action is and where everybody wants to be! So we decided to put our kitchen in the dining room so our guests could share in the energy, excitement and wonderful aromas of freshly prepared foods. The "Kitchen Counter" is definitely the best seat in the house!
How do you value the customer and make them feel important at Carrabba's?
-Steve H., Mint Hill, NC
JOHNNY: Making our guests feel valued and important is what hospitality is all about. We start by hiring people who love taking care of guests as much as we do. We always tell our people, if you don't love hospitality and taking care of guests, you're in the wrong business! We teach our people to treat guests as if they were in the home of good friends. We try to accommodate special requests so our guests can enjoy their evening just the way they want it. We also teach our people to learn our guest's names and to remember their preferences so they feel comfortable and taken care of. And we try to teach our people to anticipate our guests' needs. When our customers leave at the end of a meal, we hope each one feels valued and important because they are.
What do you love most about Carrabba's?
- Anonymous, Winter Haven, FL
JOHNNY: I love the preparation and excitement of it all. It's like throwing a party at your home every night. You work hard to prepare a great meal and you can't wait to greet your guests and show them a great time.
How many of your recipes are actual Italian recipes?
-Ben P., Colorado Springs, CO
DAMIAN: Our chefs travel to Italy every year to soak up the local cooking and discover what’s new and exciting at the country’s best restaurants. This inevitably leads to a few new dishes on the menu back home, worthy of our customer’s adoration.
Were you nervous in opening the first Carrabba's that it would not be successful, since so many restaurants do actually go under?
-Aaron L., Harleysville, PA
JOHNNY: I was a little nervous, like anyone opening a new business. But I knew we had great recipes, a great location and I knew I had a great partner!
Where did the name Carrabba's come from?
-Heather S., Olathe, KS
JOHNNY: My family is from Corleone in Sicily, however, we believe our name is actually Arabic as the Arabs ruled Sicily for over 100 years!
When I visit my grandma in Jacksonville Beach, I love to go to Carrabba's. I really like to play with the dough while we are waiting for dinner. Who came up with the idea and do you have any children?
-Ryan G., Atlanta, GA
JOHNNY: While Damian and I both have children, we can't take credit for the idea of giving kids pizza dough to play with. That was something one of our wonderful employees came up with several years ago. And we've been doing it ever since. There are lots of adults who like to play with the pizza dough too!
Johnny & Damian on Carrabba’s Dishes:
My family is Italian and we all agree your calamari is by far the best! Does the size of the squid have anything to do with the texture or taste?
-Nancy S., Mason, OH
DAMIAN: The size of the squid has everything to do with the texture. We only purchase squid that are 3-5 inches in length. Anything larger will be tough and chewy! Thanks for asking!
I absolutely love the Calamari Ricardo. How do you keep the Calamari from having a rubbery texture?
-Susan S., St. Petersburg, FL
DAMIAN: Just like a steak, Calamari has a window of cook time where it will be tender. If you under cook squid it will be chewy, and if you over cook squid it will be chewy. So the cooking time is very, very important and is determined by the size of the squid.
What is your favorite meal at Carrabba's?
-Anonymous, Lakeland, FL
JOHNNY: The Pollo Rosa Maria.
DAMIAN: I love all of it. But I really enjoy a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.
What is the secret to making such a great Caesar Salad?
-Wayne P., Palm Harbor, FL
DAMIAN: The secret to making a great Caesar Salad is to use only the best ingredients because you can't cover anything up. Use fresh garlic, high quality anchovies, fresh high quality parmesan, fresh squeezed lemon juice, a high quality vinegar, etc. It will make a difference!
Where can I find that wonderful cheese (Caprino) that you use for the Chicken Bryan?
-Geri R., Merritt Island, FL
DAMIAN: Caprino is the Italian name for goat cheese. You can usually find it at any of the better supermarkets or gourmet markets. Buon appetito.
Johnny & Damian on Italian Food:
It is my understanding that true pizza is not really Italian. Did the idea come from focaccia?
-Joyce C., Cape Coral, FL
DAMIAN: The idea of pizza goes back long before it was ever actually called pizza, back to the ancient Romans. Pizza originated in Naples, Italy and was originally made with unleavened bread. Pizza is an Italian word which simply means "a piece" of something. So it is truly an Italian dish!
How do you select scallops that are fresh and of good quality? How do you know when they are done, but not overcooked?
-Chris N., Baltimore, MD
DAMIAN: Purchase your scallops from a reputable supplier who will handle them safely and keep them at the proper temperature. When purchased they should be ivory in color. If they are dry-packed they may have a funny smell when you first open them, but once exposed to the air, the odor will dissipate. This is normal and not something to be concerned about. When cooking scallops the best way to tell if they are done is to touch them. Scallops should feel springy when cooked. If they are soft and mushy they have not cooked long enough. Good luck!
In ordering a pasta or spaghetti entrée , what does al denté mean?
-Patrick V., Albuquerque, NM
DAMIAN: Al denté literally means "firm to the tooth" and is used in reference to the firmness of pasta. Properly prepared pasta should be al denté meaning it should be firm or have a slight resistance.
Why is garlic such an important ingredient in Italian cuisine?
-Pauline R., Naples, FL
DAMIAN: Garlic is important to all Mediterranean cuisine. Garlic is a vegetable (part of the onion family) that was readily available to the people of this area and it became an important part of their cooking. But it has its place and should not be used in abundance - in other words, more is not necessarily better! Garlic is used in the base of many dishes that the Italians call "odori" or the French, "mirepoix." This is a fundamental mixture of aromatic vegetables including garlic, onions, celery and carrots that give soups and sauces great flavor!
If a recipe calls for fresh herbs, what is the equivalent of dried herbs?
-Janet C., Orlando, FL
JOHNNY: I always recommend using fresh herbs over dried whenever possible. Dried herbs often have a stronger (and different) flavor than fresh herbs. As a rule of thumb, you will only need 1/3 as much dried herb as you would use fresh.
When frying, which is better to use: olive oil, vegetable oil or butter?
-Norma C., Raleigh, NC
DAMIAN: It really depends on what you're making and the flavor you want to create. If you're frying something and don't want a strong flavor then use a light oil like vegetable, peanut or canola oil. If you want the foods you're frying to carry more of the flavor you would use olive oil or butter or a mixture of both. But it really depends upon what you're preparing. Buon appetito!
I've got a buddy who is Italian. He would always tell my wife and me what to order because we're not Italian. Do you have to be Italian to know great Italian food?
-Alan V., Buford, GA
DAMIAN: You don't have to be Italian to know good Italian food. The only thing that matters is what tastes good to you! Experiment - try tasting different things (that's the fun part) and ask a lot of questions. Learn what you like and what you don't.
What is the key to making a successful Italian dinner?
-Liz D., Clemson, SC
DAMIAN: Fresh ingredients are the key to making a successful Italian meal! In particular, fresh herbs. Herbs lose their oils as they dry and it's the oils that produce the flavors. So it's critical to the flavor of your dishes that your herbs are fresh. They cost a little more, but they're worth it!