Carrabba’s Italian Grill has rolled out a redesigned menu with more than 15 new items in a format intended to be easier to navigate.

Carrabba’s new menu features icons for signature items — such as mussels in white wine, Chicken Bryan and Fettuccine Carrabba — and for dishes with fewer than 600 calories if ordered with steamed spinach as the side item. Those include the chain’s signature Chicken Marsala and Spiedino di Mare.

“We wanted to make sure that we were getting credit for healthier or lighter items,” chief marketing officer Danielle Vona said.


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She added that the menu revamp is part of a broader brand refresh that the 240-unit Bloomin’ Brands Inc. subsidiary started two years ago. Carrabba’s remodeled 41 locations last year.

The menu has also been reorganized to be easier to navigate. Previously the chain had two pasta categories — stuffed and signature — and entrées were divided into “wood burning grill,” “Marsala” and “classics.” The pasta section is now divided into “pasta” and “oven-baked” and the entrées are divided by protein: chicken; beef, pork and veal; and seafood.

The chain is also marketing the new menu online as having 15 items for less than $15.
“Part of the reason we did this is to make sure we had affordable items in every category on the menu,” Vona said.

The menu has been in test markets since June and was rolled out systemwide in January and February, she said.

The announcement of the menu revamp, the largest at the chain in years, comes days after Italian casual-dining giant Olive Garden launched a new menu at its 834 locations.

Unlike Olive Garden and many other casual-dining chains, business is relatively good at Carrabba’s: In the most recent quarter, ended in Dec. 31, 2013, Bloomin’ Brands announced a modest 0.9-percent increase in same-store sales at company-owned Carrabba’s locations. By contrast, Olive Garden’s parent, Darden Restaurants Inc., said it expects a same-store sales decline of 5.4 percent at in the quarter ended Feb. 23.

Carrabba’s has added two appetizers:

Arancini are deep-fried balls of rice, Italian fennel sausage, red bell peppers and Romano cheese, served with marinara sauce for $6.

Shrimp Diavolo are batter-fried shrimp in lemon-butter sauce topped with pepperoncini, red bell peppers and crushed red pepper for $8.50.

The chain has also added two new flavors of its Roman-style pizza:

Chicken Bryan features the chain’s signature preparation of wood-grilled chicken with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, basil and lemon butter, now served on pizza for $12.

Carnevale is Pepperoni, Italian fennel sausage, roasted red bell peppers, basil and a housemade sauce for $12.

Both of then new pizzas are priced at a premium to the Margherita and Quattro Formaggi currently on the menu at $10.50, but at a lower price than the $12.50 create-your-own option that allows up to three toppings.

More new menu items

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Seven new entrées are on the menu, each served with soup or salad and a choice of vegetable of the day, garlic mashed potatoes or corkscrew-shaped Cavatappi Amatriciana, or with Fettuccine Alfredo for an additional $1.50:

Pollo La Scala is sautéed chicken finished with white wine, mascarpone and roasted red bell pepper sauce for $13.50.

Pollo Rosa Maria is chicken stuffed with fontina cheese and prosciutto and topped with mushrooms and basil-lemon-butter sauce. It’s priced at $17.20 for a large and $15.50 for a small.

Grilled Tuscan Skewers are wood-grilled skewers of sirloin, red onion and tomato with Chianti wine sauce for $15.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin is medallions of the meat, wood-grilled and topped with Port-fig sauce for $13.90.

Shrimp Risotto is sautéed shrimp in light tomato risotto for $14. This entrée comes just with soup or salad.

Mahi Wulfe is lightly breaded, wood-grilled mahi mahi topped with artichokes, sundried tomatoes and basil lemon butter sauce for $19.

The Damian is a combination of grilled salmon and Spiedino di Mare, which is wood-grilled shrimp and sea scallops coated in breadcrumbs and served with lemon-butter sauce, for $21.

Two oven-baked pastas are now on the menu:

Lobster Mac & Cheese is Cavatappi with lobster, pancetta and four cheeses topped with toasted breadcrumbs for $17.

Baked Ravioli Parmesan is panko-breaded ravioli stuffed with five Italian cheeses, fried and then baked and topped with tomato sauce and Romano and mozzarella cheese for $12.50.

Three new non-baked pastas are also new to the menu:

Shrimp and Scallop Linguine alla Vodka is $15.

Conchiglie ai Formaggi — shell pasta in Alfredo sauce with mozzarella, fontina, Romano, Parmesan and goat cheese — is $11.50, or $14.50 with the addition of chicken breast.

Rigatoni Martino is wood-grilled chicken, sautéed mushrooms and sundried tomatoes tossed with rigatoni and tomato cream sauce for $14.

Two new desserts have also been added:

Mini Cannoli includes two pastries filled with sweetened ricotta and chocolate chips, topped with pistachios and powdered sugar for $5.

Panna Cotta made with Madagascar vanilla is served with raspberries for $6.

Correction: March 6, 2014 A previous version of this story stated that Carrabba's remodeled 37 restaurants in 2013. The correct number is 41.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
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