Carrabba’s Italian Grill is one of America’s most popular Italian-themed chain restaurants, with about 250 locations throughout the country. What started as a family-owned restaurant in 1986 is today a certified behemoth (it’s the second-largest Italian-themed chain restaurant, behind Olive Garden), but our pick for America’s best Italian restaurant chain hasn’t forgotten its family roots.
Carrabba’s was founded by Johnny Carrabba III and his uncle Damian Mandola; the first location was on Kirby Drive in Houston, Texas. A second location quickly followed, and in 1993, Outback Steakhouse singled out the restaurant as one ripe for expansion. The company opened 10 new locations in Houston and Florida, and in 1995, they bought the rights to turn it into a full-fledged national chain. The company, which today is called Bloomin’ Brands, still owns Carrabba’s and Outback, as well as Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Steakhouse.
Carrabba and Mandola are still deeply involved with the chain, and family is something the restaurant really plays up, even going so far as to include a full family tree of the Carrabba/Mandola clan on the website. The concept of an “Italian grill” was inspired by Mandola’s father, Anthony, who “taught the family how to grill,” according to the site, and its selection of simply grilled steaks and chops sets it apart from other Italian chains. Signature dishes like Chicken Bryan, invented by Mandola, have also become fan favorites.
Whether you’ve only dropped in a couple times or are a regular patron, we bet you’ll find these facts about Carrabba’s Italian Grill to be interesting. Read on for 10 things you didn’t know about this popular chain.