Okay, so it's started. Two months into this baby-having thing and I am already lusting after a vehicle with a sliding door and a large rear seat area. And growing tired of takeout, I'm turning my eyes toward more kid-friendly establishments. As in, minivans and restaurants large and loud enough that a crying baby won't be an embarrassment.
Carrabba's had a few things going against it right out of the gate. First and foremost, I have never been a huge fan. I've gone to Carrabba's in Memphis and Hendersonville and thought that the experience was okay but not great (or even good). I've typically gotten the manicotti and at each location it's always been served so hot that I couldn't eat it until everyone else was nearly finished. Second, I don't usually eat Italian food out because I can make it at home fairly easily. Third, I prefer to support local restaurants with menus created by chefs rather than focus groups and with a knowledgeable staff that provides excellent service.
But we had a gift card, so we decided to try out the Carrabba's in Green Hills. Fortunately, I knew enough to call ahead to get on the waiting list. This place is always busy and it was also a Friday night. When we arrived, we were seated in about five minutes.
So it started out good and just got better. Peroni. A salad with field greens, not iceberg lettuce. And a brick-oven pizza with perfect thin crust and just a hint of char. And my special request to sub Roma tomatoes (which were red, not pink) was noted and accommodated without hesitation. This I like. And dessert, a Limoncello Bread Pudding from the specials menu. It's a portion big enough for two; a yummy, rich brioche with a good lemon flavor and just a hint of the alcohol.
Now, about the service. Despite it being BUSY, the service (from the door to table and back) was amazing. Our server was helpful, knowledgeable (a definite advantage of many upscale chains) and attentive, and the other members of the staff were helpful and accommodating as well (such as when I stopped another server to request a look at the bacinos she was carrying). And, though I thought my pizza was perfect, we got a visit from the owner with another pizza; apparently, he or someone on the staff didn't think it quite met their standards. So instead of delaying our order, they brought the first one and then another. When I told him the first one was great and asked if I could take the second with me, he happily boxed it up for me. All of this is the kind of service one expects at an upscale chef's restaurant, not a busy chain restaurant near a mall. But the owner and the staff at Carrabba's in Green Hills apparently strive to make it seem as much like the original Carrabba's and less like a chain--and they do a great job.