Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Classic Houston: Carrabba's on Kirby

When I first moved to Houston in 1991 for grad school at Rice, the smooth jazz radio station (whose call letters seem to be lost to my memory) had a regular rotating ad for Carrabba's Italian Grill with an operatic jingle that said "Try Carrabba's, that's Two R's, Two B's!"  As silly as the jingle was, the restaurant they were hawking is the original family owned restaurant whose descendants created a chain all over the US.  I would scrap together about $25.00 and go there for lunch a few times during those days, and would enjoy pasta, wood fired pizza or other Italian appetizers, which would last me another day with the leftovers.

However, as time marches on, people move out from the inner loop to the suburbs, and such places get visited once every year or so as a reminder of good times past and of great taste that very rarely changes.  A friend of mine recently mentioned the Kirby location was rebuilt from the ground up, and though it was brand new, it still was the old place I knew and loved, with the falling chef on the sign and the bold Italian food.  Recalling the debacle of Ninfa's expansion followed by its collapse, I was persuaded to pack the family in the car, drive from Westchase to Inside the Loop and revisit a restaurant that was like an old friend.  Houston has many such places that I've taken time to revisit and enjoy through fresh eyes, and Carrabba's was overdue .

Per their website:
Our Story Today, Johnny Carrabba and his family are proud that the two original locations on Kirby Drive and Voss Road remain family owned and operated neighborhood restaurants.

What makes us unique are the quality ingredients that go into each dish along with our lively and warm dining experiences. At The Original Carrabba's, we have an open kitchen and we take enormous pride in our food. Our pizza dough is made fresh every day and our pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven. We fillet our own fish daily, make fresh homemade pasta, and we even hand stuff our own signature Cappelletti. Even our fresh milk mozzarella is hand made. Our steaks, chops and seafood are all cooked over a wood-burning grill. Johnny's father, Mr. C. still mixes his own secret spices and makes his own Italian sausage for our restaurants.

The Original Carrabba's on Kirby Drive and Voss Road is where people come together to eat, celebrate, share stories, share meals and share many laughs and memories.
We perused the menus and debated over classics versus a few new items.  The kids found things they wanted easily--Spaghetti with a monster sized meatball for Jason and grilled chicken with steamed broccoli and herb mashed potatoes for Helena.  After some debate the adults chose the Linguine Pescatore (linguine served with mixed seafood in a spicy marinara sauce) and the Spiedino Di Mare (breaded and grilled shrimp and scallops with a lemon butter sauce, served with fettuccine alfredo).  While we waited (and it wasn't long--on a Friday night at 7 PM the staff was very prompt despite the full house) we noshed on their special Italian breads, dipping them in olive oil infused with Italian spices.  All right, let's eat already!!!

The Spiedino Di Mare was very tasty--bold flavours of lemon, garlic, butter, a little olive oil and other herbs, infused with the very large shrimp and meaty scallops, along with creamy alfredo sauce and al dente fettucini pasta.  The Linguine Pescatore was bold and spicy, with robust tomato sauce and generously garnished with mussels, shrimp and scallops.  Several pieces of seafood were scammed by the kids off of this plate, to be sure.  My son dug into the Spaghetti and Monster Meatball, twisting pasta around his fork and getting some sauce on his almost 9 year old face.  He declared it "Quite good!"  My daughter's more health conscious choice of the grilled chicken was fine--wood grilled, herb infused, and she gobbled it up along with the herb potatoes.  She shared some of her steamed broccoli with everyone--she kind of had to as broccoli is my favourite vegetable!

The staff was very prompt in serving us, refilling our beverages and making sure our food was to our liking.  This is not necessarily easy to to, especially on a Friday evening during a big rush.  However, I saw wait staff, bar staff, hostesses, buss staff and managers backing eachother up, reconfiguring tables on the fly and operating like a well oiled machine.  Our wait for our food was not very long at all, the food was all hot and fresh, and everyone was happy with their meals.  Good job, Carrabba's!!! Truth to tell, it's been a couple of years since I've been to one of the original Carrabba's.  I ate at one of the chain locations outside the loop about a year ago, and while their food was pretty good, the experience wasn't like the original Kirby location.  Something about that place, with its memories and the fact that it's original family owned makes a difference that stands out for sure.

Report Card for Carrabba's on Kirby:
     Linguine Pescatore: A 
     Spiedino Di Mare: A
     Spaghetti & Meatball: A
     Grilled Chicken with Steamed Broccoli: A
     Friendliness: A
     Speed: A+
     Dining Area: A
     Kitchen Area: A
     Men's Room: A-
Atmosphere (Modern Classic Italian): A-

Overall Grade: A

The Original Carrabba's is located at:
3115 Kirby Dr.
Houston, TX  77098
(713) 522-3131

Hours of Operation:
Monday through Thursday: 11:00AM - 10:00PM
Friday: 11:00AM - 11:00PM
Saturday: 12:00PM - 11:00PM

Eat Happy, Y'all!!!
Mangiare felicemente tutti voi!!!

Carrabba's Italian Grill on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

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