Around the Carrabba's Family Table

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Our Story

Around our family table...

We're two Sicilian boys from Texas who love to cook and eat. We love the Sicilian food our parents and grandparents cooked. We love the Creole and Southern food our family members picked up passing through Louisiana and stepping off the boat right on the dock in Galveston. And we love the Western food that's just part of being in Texas.

Food, you see, isn't only about food. It's not some big secret. It's something that just happens when all of our interconnected families get together-the Carrabbas and the Mandolas, plus anybody with enough good sense to marry in. You may be poor, went the saying a mere generation ago, but you'll never be hungry.

Food is part of us because that's how we were raised; food was present at births, christenings, weddings, graduations and funerals. Food is what reminded us we were family. To this day, whenever one family member meets another and starts talking about something or someplace, the first question has to be, "Whadya eat?"

To my Mamma, Grace, the greatest cook I ever knew, who not only taught me the basics of good cooking, but also the importance of having family gather at the table, often. Damien Mandola

Our Gulf Coast experience is about the place where all of our ancestors came to build their lives. They called it America! And they didn't just mean Ellis Island, or Little Italy in New York, or the North End of Boston or South Philly. They meant the whole damn place, wherever it began and ended, which of course nobody much knew. And it meant an idea too, a big promise in the air during the hard times in Sicily that if you sacrificed just about everything and pretty near worked yourself to death, you could have something a little better. Which, after all, was exactly what you did in the Old Country-without any promise at all.

So they came, ship after ship full of them. Full of us. And all the while, there were other ships filled with other people, speaking different languages. In America, we would come to know them all. And talk with them all. And wrestle with them all.

And, in some cases, cook with them all. We kept on being who we are, sure enough, but after a while we were something different, too. Something entirely new.

So give us a break here. Don't go picking over our Grandma's and Mamma's and Aunt's and Uncle's recipes, whining about this not being the way they did it at your house. Great! We'll go to your house, this is the way the old folks taught the young folks. This is the way we remember things tasting. And this is what it all comes down to-with generous sprinklings of life, love and oregano-for two Sicilian boys from Texas who love to cook and eat.

Our Founders

“Food was and still is part of everything we do, and not just because we run our own restaurants.”


Our Founder's Signatures

Meet the Family

Food isn't only about food. It's not some big secret. It's something that just happens when all of our interconnected families get together-the Carrabbas and the Mandolas, plus anybody with enough good sense to marry in.

Grace

Grace

Damian's mother (Johnny's grandmother) Grace was born in Alexandria, LA in 1916. She learned to cook from her mother, Rosa Testa and her mother-in-law, Margaret Mandola, both from Sicily.

Grace loved to cook. Every Sunday the family gathered at Grace's house for the family dinner. Grace worked at one of the Mandola family restaurants in Houston until she was in her mid-nineties. Her recipes have been handed down for generations and are served daily at Carrabba's.

Vincent & Margaret

Vincent & Margaret

Born in Sicily in the 1870's, Damian's grandparents Vincent and Margaret Mandola immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800's where they settled just outside Galveston, TX.

Grandma Mandola was a wonderful cook. She did everything the hard way. Damian to this day can still picture her with a scarf tied around her head as she worked in the kitchen. She always made her own pasta. She would take two sterilized broom handles and rest them between two chairs. That was where she hung her pasta to dry.

The Family

The Family

Johnny's great grandparents with his grandmother Mary (center) with her two sisters in Sicily in 1917. They immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900's where they settled in Bryan, TX.

Q&A

To learn more about Carrabba’s, here are some questions asked by our guests
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1) Jill H. Asks...

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)?

Damian Mandola Answers...

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!

2) John S. Asks...

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?

Johnny Carrabba Answers...

We are 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!

3) Katie V. Asks...

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?

Johnny Carrabba Answers...

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!

3) Heather S. Asks...

Where did the name Carrabba's come from?

Johnny Carrabba Answers...

My family is from Corleone in Sicily, however, we believe our name is actually Arabic as the Arabs ruled Sicily for over 100 years!

3) Liz D. Asks...

What is the key to making a successful Italian dinner?

Damien Mandola Answers...

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!

3) Ben P. Asks...

How many of your recipes are actual Italian recipes?

Damien Mandola Answers...

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.

3)Patrick V. Asks...

In ordering a pasta or spaghetti entrée , what does al denté mean?

Damien Mandola Answers...

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

3)Geri R. Asks...

Where can I find that wonderful cheese (Caprino) that you use for the Chicken Bryan?

Damien Mandola Answers...

Caprino is the Italian name for goat cheese. You can usually find it at any of the better supermarkets or gourmet markets. Buon appetito.

3)Mary C. Asks...

What do you love most about Carrabba's?

Johnny Carrabba Answers...

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.

3)Nancy S. Asks...

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?

Damien Mandola Answers...

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!

3)Aaron L. Asks...

Were you nervous in opening the first Carrabba's that it would not be successful, since so many restaurants do actually go under?

Johnny Carrabba Answers...

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!

3)Ryan G. Asks...

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?

Johnny Carrabba Answers...

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!