I ate here fresh arrived in Sarasota and nor so much starving as happy to be landed for some time here with family. We stopped at this restaurant - at the Southern end of Sarasota, near Osprey. Why? My mom, who lives locally, tossed out this idea for dinner, especially as this is a very beloved restaurant locally - very big, modern, crowded, and friendly.
The mussels come in an awesome pungent sauce, - a big bowl of them labelled as an appetizer but easily a small meal. For her, at least. The regular platters came with pasta and soup or salad. (I did the salad, my limit being one pasta per meal and the zuppa was minestrone. It's daily..)
Starting at the beginning- Very crowded, about 1/2 hour wait in fact, This was Saturday like 7PM, Veteran's Day Weekend but not yet tourist or snowbird seasonThere was a basket full of beepers which let you know when your table is ready. .(They vibrate and flash.) Meanwhile, friendly people - in fact we were asked if we wanted regular or family style dining "with strangers... fun.".. We chose regular and had about a 30 minute wait. A very big bustling (seniors might say "loud") but to me upbeat place with friendly staff. Back to food: I was torn (as a seafood lover who loves almost anything but mussels) between stuffed canneloni with lobster, scallop, and shrimp (my favorites!), or since we were looking at pasta and 2 pounds versus a serious seafood and greens plate. I ended up compromising with a regular specialty of shrimp and scallops with some kind of pasta I've never heard of, twisty, seemingly recently baked, things, which we were warned are "kinda spicy, but real good". True 'nuf. Oh yes, it may seem from reviews that they're very expensive just because they're so efficient and big (and friendly too!) - but they have ads running constantly in the local and regional papers, with specials, and locals get awards or gift certificates. They may be a chain (regional?) But in my frequent NY-FL travels I've never heard of Carrabba's Italian Grill (and even, dear editor, the LinkedIn Search for Carrabba's Italian Grill from the main page showed other locations but not this.).
It may be a chain, like TGIF's or upscale or downscale versions, but for like 20-30 dollars pp, with a small wine carafe - w/o dessert - this was not expensive for nicely done seafood. (I never got a chance to try veal parmagiana.) The shrimp and scallop were both delicious & as I write this I'm waiting for a photo from my camera to download so I can post an image of the shrimp, Scallop and swirly spicy pasta. Notes: I was bracing for serious Italian and thinking Veal Parm - but they don't serve it. Some argue (and cook) veal paccata (lemon) or marsala, and consider them more tasty, certainly less common. To each their own. If they served veal parm I'd have gotten it with with the pasta swirly spicy thingies. But really, though I wasn't that hungry, I definitely finished and enjoyed this meal. (Didn't get dessert.).
Bottom line: Without any knowledge of this restaurant's past or sister restaurants, as of last night I'd have say, it's worth trying if you don't mind a possible crowd. This was Saturday night 7ish, though still not facing the full rush of Thanksgiving and return of "seasonal" snowbirds. This restaurant is known and frequented by locals, and there are lots of restaurants to compete with in Sarasota..Ah well.. The swirly things with spice and grilled scallops and shrimp: Molto bene. I should point out, if the photo shows detail, all that parmesan doesn't come on it; the friendly server (who might well get lost in the sea of kitchen and other staff) asked if I wanted some cheese on the pasta or seafood, or both, and I said "sure". "Oops" a bit much. But perfect, given the spicy sauce.
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