Carrabba's recently invited me to come in and sample a meal. Although I have always been fond of the place, I hadn't been there in several years, and was anxious to see if the place had changed.
I visited the Kirby location (3115 Kirby Drive) not only because it is the original, but also because it is one of the two that are still family-owned (the other being at 1399 South Voss). My server was a big, boisterous man nicknamed Captain Bubba, who has worked for the restaurant for more than two decades. He was enthusiastic about the special of the night, chicken marsala, so I ordered that along with an off-the-menu plate of Shrimp Oseil, created back in the day by a hungry cook.
A patron of a neighboring table had requested ravioli, an item that was not on the menu, and Captain Bubba agreed to have it made fresh for her, if she was willing to wait. I also was given a sample of the beef-stuffed fresh pasta, and it was divine. The same can be said for the spinach fettuccine that accompanied the chicken marsala. The fresh pasta at Carrabba's is so airy that it is almost transcendent. The light, fresh pasta combined with the simple, creamy, cheese sauce it was tossed with easily made the fettuccine dish the best pasta I had eaten in years. Seriously.
The chicken marsala was flavorful and moist, but it didn't stand a chance against that spinach fettuccine. The Shrimp Oseil consisted of lightly battered and sautéed shrimp mixed with big chunks of lump crabmeat, asparagus tips and peppers in a rich butter sauce. Slices of garlic toast accompanied the dish and were perfectly suited to sopping up every last decadent bite.
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Prior to coming to Carrabba's, I was told that the restaurant had just been awarded a top ranking in customer satisfaction by JD Power and Associates, and after enjoying a night of excellent service and even better food, I found myself not being surprised by this. And lest I be lulled into satisfaction just because they knew a write-up was coming, I made sure to observe and speak with other patrons, who all seemed equally pleased with their dinner. But feel free to let me know your personal thoughts on the Carrabba empire.