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Friday, September 24, 2010

Carrabba's, W. Henrietta Rd.

Carrabba's Italian Grill on Urbanspoon
One of my reasons for not reviewing chain pizzerias is that they are so ubiquitous. If there's not a Pizza Hut, Domino's or Papa John's (or Salvatore's, around here) near you, chances are there's been one in the past, and that you've sampled their wares at some point in your life. Unless you've been a vegetarian from birth, you've probably eaten a McDonald's hamburger at one time or another, and you hardly need some self-appointed food critic to tell you what they taste like. Same goes for pizza.
But if a chain only has one location in your area, that rationale doesn't apply. Such is the case with Carrabba's, which is on West Henrietta Road, near Marketplace Mall. So when I had dinner there recently, I tried their Margherita pizza, and took some notes.
Carrabba's advertises some entrees as cooked on a wood-burning grill, but the pizzas are said to be baked in a brick oven, so I take it that they are not baked in a wood-burning oven. The menu also states that the pizzas are baked at 600 degrees, which is not exceptionally hot.
Still, the crust on these was nicely charred, and comparable, if not better, than some pizzas I've had that were baked in wood-fired ovens. It was quite thin, with no real interior, and crisp on the outside but still very pliable. Interestingly, the underside was, apart from the charred areas, quite pale.
The menu describes the Margherita as topped with "vine-ripe Roma tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil and mozzarella." Of those toppings, it was the cheese that predominated here. It appeared to be  fresh mozzarella, and was applied in chunks that had partially melted. It didn't have the almost liquid creaminess of some fresh mozzarella, but it hadn't turned rubbery either, and was somewhat stringy.
The "vine-ripe" tomatoes looked nice enough, but aside from a touch of sweetness, didn't seem to have much flavor. I wondered, this being a chain restaurant and all, if their tomatoes are trucked in from some distant location; at this time of year, I would think that locally-grown tomatoes would be much more flavorful.
The torn basil leaves were neatly arranged, one per slice plus one in the middle, though basil lovers might like a little more.
The entire pizza was also lightly dusted with what looked and tasted like black pepper. That's a bit unusual, but it added a nice flavor boost to what was otherwise a mild, even bland pizza. I don't know if fresh garlic is an option - I didn't see any toppings list on the menu - but it would've made a nice addition as well.
Carraabba's offers an array of Italian dishes, from standbys like chicken Marsala and lasagna to house specialties like penne with fennel sausage pomodoro and a number of meat and seafood dishes from the wood-fired grill. In general, my impression was that the food was of fairly high quality, and a notch above the standard Italian chain restaurant fare.
As for the pizza, it was pretty good. Not outstanding, but pretty good. The crust was nicely charred, and crisp but supple, yet it didn't have the toasted, bready flavors of a really great pizza crust. And as I mentioned, the overall flavor of this pizza was a shade on the bland side, and seemed to be lacking that little extra something to make it truly memorable. Still, it was enjoyable, with no significant flaws, and good enough to rate a B from me. Carrabba's Italian Grill, 3340 West Henrietta Road, 292-6120 Mon. - Thu. 4 p.m. - 10 p.m., Fri. 4 p.m. - 10:30 p.m., Sat. 3 p.m. - 10:30 p.m., Sun. noon - 9 p.m.


  1. So is it frozen pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven, or is it freshly made?

  2. I hope I didn't suggest it was frozen - it seemed freshly made. Perhaps the dough gets shipped in from elsewhere, I don't know. Probably should've asked. And my interpretation of the menu is that it is not baked in a wood-fired oven. Some items are grilled over a wood fire, but the pizza is only described as baked in a brick oven, not a wood-fired oven.