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Show up at the Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Freedom Square, at the intersection of 951/41 in Naples, and you’re bound to see some island faces. And if you go during lunch or dinner, it’s best to call ahead for reservations, as it’s a very popular dining location.

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Carrabba's may be a chain, but they go all out to feel like a neighborhood restaurant. Come armed with coupons and if it’s happy hour, sit in the bar; where certain appetizers are half price. You heard me correct, you must be seated in the bar section to take advantage of certain deals (I know because I paid full price for my calamari). And if you’re looking for great calamari, you’ll find it here. Crispy, hot and a little salty; with the restaurant’s A+ marinara sauce on the side.

From the bar, we enjoyed a blackberry Bellini, with Riondo prosecco, blackberry and cranberry juice; and a sparkling Tuscan lemonade, with Absolut Citron vodka, Il Tramonto limoncello, housemade basil syrup and fresh lemon juice. Takes me back to my wine cooler days; only with a pinch more alcohol.

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For my entrée, I picked the chicken parmesan and lasagna from the Italian classic combination menu. The breast of chicken was coated with “Mama Mandola’s” breadcrumbs, sautéed and topped with pomodoro sauce, Romano and mozzarella cheese. It was accompanied by a petit lasagna, layered with pomodoro sauce, ricotta, Romano and mozzarella cheese. As my side, I added garlic and rosemary fries.

I also got my pick of soup or salad. I chose the Caesar salad; bonus points: no upcharge.   

The chicken was tender and tasty with a boatload of melted cheese. Since the dish came with Carrabba’s famous lasagna, I opted for the fries (instead of more pasta) which sounded much better than they were. Don’t get me wrong, a solid fry. I just expected a better use of the rosemary and garlic.

My partner in dine opted for the 13 oz. Tuscan-grilled ribeye with garlic mashed potatoes and a side of garlic aioli, which was served on the side in a creamy consistency. The steak had impeccable flavor and was cooked to perfect; the potatoes a subtle masterpiece that made me wish I had ordered them instead of the fries. He picked minestrone soup to accompany his entrée. Fun fact, there was no pasta or rice in the soup. In its place: cabbage.

If a “chain” restaurant is not your thing, you might find yourself forgetting Carrabba’s is one. Good food, friendly, familiar faces and plenty of adult beverages means this brand fits right in with the Southwest Florida lifestyle.

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If you go

Carrabba's Italian Grill

  • 12631 Tamiami Trail E., Naples
  • 239-774-2965
  • carrabbas.com/locations/fl/naples-(south)
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