Thursday, July 31, 2008

Seafood di Venezia at Carrabba's Italian Grill

As you’ve read from colleagues’ posts, the crew of the PFC set out for some food and fun at our local Carrabba’s Italian Grill. We decided to hit the place on a Wednesday to take advantage of “Wine Wednesdays” which meant that there was $10 off any bottle of wine.

At our table, our waitress Robin recommended several specials to us. One of them caught my ear and I decided to try it out. Enter... the Seafood di Venezia.

This Ventian seafood platter featured “Trout Nocciola” and “Venetian Gamberoni” served with some pan-seared vegetable ravioli and sautéed asparagus.

The “Trout Nocciola was a hazelnut-encrusted filet of trout cooked on a wood-burning grill and then lightly covered with some basil-lemon-butter sauce. I thought that the mild trout flavor was well complimented by the sauce. This was actually my favorite piece of the plate. It was fresh, crunchy, and simply delicious.

The “Venetial Gamberoni” was shrimp stuffed with fresh crabmeat covered with a little lemon butter. This was my second favorite part of the dish. The crab meat and the shrimp came together pretty well. I think I can attribute the great flavor of this combination from the freshness of the seafood. I’ve had something similar to this at some other place in town, and it was a tragedy. This one was right on target. The spices were just right and it wasn’t over cooked.
The vegetable ravioli was par with ones that I have had at Carraba’s before. They were good, but not awesome. It tasted like it was missing something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it and I still can’t.

The asparagus was awesome, but I’m partial to asparagus in any form. It wasn’t overcooked so it actually still had a little crunch when you bit into them. In my humble opinion, that’s the way asparagus should be cooked. Carrabba’s hit the nail on this one.

Overall, I would definitely recommend the “Seafood di Venezia” to anyone. I really enjoyed it and I think I would definitely order it again when I come back. Do check with your server and see if it’s available. According to Robin, the dish was available for a limited time. It if is available, go ahead and try it. Let me know how what you think.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Calling All Pensacola Food Critic Fans - You Decide Where...

"The Schwab" would like the readers of this blog to help pick upcoming restaurants to review.

But that's not enough, "The Schwab" always likes to take things to the next level. So... not only say where you want me to go...tell me what you want me to order/review.

Oh, I have one more request when you post a comment. Inside the comment create a catchy little handle for yourself so I can give you some credit if your restaurant and food idea is selected. Comments without handles or names will probably be deleted.

So go ahead... click on the word "Comments" at the bottom of this post. When the next page appears click on "Post a Comment" and let all the "Pensacola Food Critics" know where you want "The Schwab" to go and visit.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Carrabba's - Lobster Ravioli and Cannoli

Your favorite Pensacola food critics descended upon Carrabba’s in full force last night. Your’s truly went with the Lobster Ravioli ($17) and ice water for the main event and Cannoli ($6) for dessert.

The Lobster Ravioli is described as Ravioli stuffed with tender Maine lobster in a white wine cream sauce with diced tomatoes. My plate arrived with a heap of beautiful ravioli and bright red tomatoes – no over-dressing. I like that. The food should be the star. I took a whiff before digging in and didn’t really smell anything, which is far better than that straight from the ocean smell you sometimes get with lobster dishes. After whiffing came biting - my first ravioli left something to be desired. But there’s one bad apple in every bunch, right? I thoroughly enjoyed the other nine apples, er, ravioli. Most of them contained nice big chunks of lobster which was indeed tender. I like a big chunk of meat – no unidentifiable mush for this critic, please. Oh – and the ice water was splendid. It did not taste chalky as many a glass of restaurant water I’ve sampled does. My only complaint – I was sucking air through my straw for most of the meal. I know water is the despised free drink, but it allows me to taste your food without some crazy cola infusion – so if you keep my glass full I’ll add that extra 30 cents to the tip that a $2 soda would have entitled.

Onward to dessert. The Cannoli is described as two crisp pastry shells stuffed with sweet ricotta and chocolate chip filling, topped with pistachios and powdered sugar. I chose this dessert because I have a hard time resisting anything with pistachios, not because my meal left me feeling hungry. The cannoli looked better than it tasted. Not that it was bad - it tasted good, the ricotta was creamy, the shell was crisp and the pistachios were great – it just so happened to be slightly more appealing to my eye (yes, just the one) than my tongue. By the way, the dessert portions seemed much more generous than the entrée portions. And if you can’t decide what to get, try the dessert sampler, which our waitress assured us is very “cute”.

I’m not sure where to rate my meal on the cuteness scale. Maybe somewhere between just cute and absolutely adorable…super cute??? Overall my meal was tasty and the atmosphere was nice. We were seated and served quickly despite the parking lot looking ominously full. Will I dine at Carrabba’s again? Sure. Will I order the same thing? Probably not – it was good but the plates of my partners in crime looked better (obviously I haven’t learned my lesson from the handsome cannoli).

The Low Down:
Italian entrees, desserts, wine
311 North 9th Avenue
Sun 11:30 – 9 p.m.; Mon-Thurs 4-10 p.m.; Fri & Sat 4-11 p.m.

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Lasagna and Dessert Rosa at Carrabba’s

Last night, as part of a special event, the reviewers here went to Carrabba’s, a chain restaurant that serves Italian food. The restaurant had a casual feel while trying to be formal at the same time. On one side of the restaurant, cooks worked over stoves and grills visible from the main room. Occasionally, a flame or two would catch our attention.

I ordered the lasagna, something of a classic choice for me. I’ve had lasagna from many places, from chains to local places, and this lasagna was average compared to what I’ve had before. The taste wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It did have pieces of sausage that caught me by surprise, but even that was somewhat bland. My biggest complaint with it was that it was small compared to some lasagna I’ve ordered.

After the lasagna, I ordered the Dessert Rosa. It’s a butter cake with several types of fruit layered above the cake and topped with whipped cream. The cake was soft and moist, and the fruit tasted fresh. It was fantastic, and I think that I’ll probably order it if I get the chance to go back to Carrabba’s.

The Location:

Carrabba’s Italian Grill
311 North 9th Avenue
Pensacola, Florida 32501

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Evening at Carrabba's

Someone in a land 'Far Away' has noticed this blog and sent us all gift certificates to Carrabba's Italian Grill. Thank you for your thoughtfulness. It was a nice treat.

So we decided to plan an evening where we'd all go together to review Carrabba's. I had a lot of fun going with the other reviewers and an enjoyable meal.
Upon entering and presenting the gift certificates, we were seated in a booth not far from where we walked into the restaurant. The booth had plenty of room for the four of us.

When it came time to order drinks, I decided my beverage of choice for the evening was going to be Coke.

By the time dinner had come around, I was definitely in the mood for steak. After carefully reviewing the menu in the restaurant (I had also taken a glimpse at the online menu earlier in the day), the decision was between the Sirloin Marsala and the Filet Fiorentina. I ordered the Sirloin Marslala ($18) because I decided I wanted a little more than just an 8 oz steak. I chose the Caesar salad and mashed potatoes to go with it.

I typically would have substituted a different side for the mashed potatoes since most of the places in town only serve garlic mashed potatoes, but the menu made no mention of garlic in these mashed potatoes, so I decided I'd give it a try.

All the food came out in a timely fashion to my satisfaction.

The Caesar salad was quite tasty. It was a healthy portion with fresh tasting green lettuce with just the right amount of dressing.

The steak was very thick and covered in a dark sauce and mushrooms. I ordered the steak medium-rare and it was delivered just as I ordered it.
The description listed on the menu is a "10 oz. USDA Choice center-cut sirloin topped with mushrooms, prosciutto and our Lombardo Marsala wine sauce."

There was a small side of mashed potatoes on the plate. Not a minute after the food was served the manager came by with a plate of mashed potatoes. He said the side of mashed potatoes I received on the plate was a little small, and he also went on to tell us they make their mashed potatoes fresh everyday. The great part was that the potatoes were mashed potatoes and not lumpy potatoes like I've received at other places.

I have to say, the steak was the most tender and juicy sirloin I've had in my life. I really enjoyed it. I liked the mashed potatoes. The plate of mashed potatoes that was brought out to me happened to taste slightly better than the mashed potatoes with the steak because the sauce from the steak was blending in with the mashed potatoes. On a side note, the picture of the steak doesn't exactly due it justice, it looked better in person.

The server checked on us frequently throughout our stay, which I appreciated. She said she happened to notice us taking pictures and offered to take a picture of all of us which turned out rather well. Personally, I don't know how anyone on that side of restaurant Could Have Missed that we were taking pictures with the amount of photos I took. Yes, that photo flash was very bright in that dark restaurant atmosphere.

By the time it came for ordering deserts, I opted out. I had already had more than enough to eat. All the deserts that were shown to us and the ones that were ordered all looked rather tempting.

If you're looking for a great dinner in the evening, I recommend ordering the Steak Marsala when you go to Carrabba's Italian Grill at 311 N 9th Ave in Pensacola, FL.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Buffalo & Lemon Pepper Wings at Wing Stop

Nobody likes hot wings like the ByteMonkey, so when I had the chance to visit the local the Wing Stop on Bayou Boulevard, I was excited.
When I arrived at the place, I was somewhat apprehensive. I didn't see anyone dining and I usually take this as a bad omen. Well, my worries were proved wrong when I decided that my desire for wings were greater than my concern for the lack of customers.
I was greeted at the counter by happy workers and they took my order pretty quickly. They were able to explain the different wings and sauces that they offered, but I knew what I wanted so I wasn't really paying attention that much to their sales pitch.

I decided I wanted the "10 Wing Meal" and I ordered with half "Original Hot" wings and the other half as "Lemon Pepper" wings. I ordered the lemon pepper wings because it was something I wasn't familiar with and I felt like living dangerously that day. The meal was served with a choice of dipping sauce and fresh cut seasoned fries. I got ranch for my sauce because I've lived in the South for too long and have been brainwashed into loving it.

Now, Wing Stop doesn't bake their wings like some places in town. These were deep fried and then dipped and/or seasoned to become the flavors they represent. All, I can say is that this process yields awesome results.

My hot wings came about 14 minutes after I ordered them. I know that seems like a long time, but they do cook them per order. I rather not have raw chicken wings or ones that have been sitting under a heat lamp for a while. Fresh and hot is good fro me.

The "Original Hot" wings were awesome. It was delightfully hot and crunchy. The buffalo sauce made my fingers red but I didn't care. The "Lemon Pepper" wings were also great. I wouldn't really call them hot wings because they weren't spicy. They had a unique lemony flavor with a hint of black pepper. It was really good and I think I'll be getting them again when I come back. The fries were also good. They remind me of the Belgian fries that Hop Jacks (a local pizza and beer place) serves for half the price.

All in all the, my experience there was great and I would recommend everyone to try the place. I realize now that the reason for the lack of customers was probably due to the time I went in. It was probably twenty minutes after they opened and I guess not everyone craves hot wings as early as I do. Very recently, I talked to one of my colleagues who told me that the place usually gets packed at night with the movie-going crowd since it's located near the new Bayou Rave theater. She also tells me that there is another Wing Stop in town somewhere on Mobile Highway. (If you live anywhere there, let us know what you think about that location!).

So, if you're hungry for wings or if you've just watched a movie and then become hungry for wings, then I'd highly recommend trying Wing Stop.

Here's the Stats of the Place I visited:

Wing Stop
5147 Bayou Boulevard
Pensacola, Florida32503

Phone: (850) 912-4408

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ichiban Sushi Plate

Last week, I decided I wanted sushi for lunch. So, a coworker and I went to the Ichiban Japanese restaurant on Davis Highway.

Upon being sat, we were greeted by our server with hot towels to wipe our hands. They took our drink orders and we proceeded to peruse the menu.

The restaurant's ambiance is typical to those following the Japanese/Asian theme as evident with their decorations. They have several booths that allow for some privacy. I wasn't keen on having to remove my shoes, but I managed to survive the ordeal.

Having had my heart set on sushi, I spent most of my time looking at the sushi list. Everything on the list were moderately priced. There were a few things that seemed a bit expensive, but we were dealing with freshly rolled sushi and not the kind you find at the buffet line at some places in town. This was the real deal, folks

Having considered all of my options, I decided to go with the "Ichiban Plate." It was a bit pricey at around $23, but I was doing it for the experience. The plate consists of: Chef's choice 10 piece nigiri and choice of dragon roll with soup or salad.

As you can see from the picture below, it was a very pretty and tasty pretty meal.

Overall, the experience was great. Aside from my wallet being a bit sore, the food tasted as good as it looked. I would definitely recommend this place. Ichiban is located at 5555 N. Davis Hwy, Pensacola, Florida 32503. For more information, you can visit their web site at

Review by ByteMonkey

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