Carolina's Italian Restaurant
12045 Chapman Ave.
Garden Grove, CA 92840
Sometimes you have to be flexible when you go out to eat. It was Saturday night and we were headed to a restaurant that I have been dying to try. Unfortunately, we got to that restaurant and were faced with an hour and a half wait. Not wanting to wait that long, we scrambled to find somewhere else to eat in the area. Enter Carolina's.
Carolina's is located in a run down strip mall on Chapman. The outside of this 33 year old eatery looks a little dodgy. Once inside the cramped restaurant though, you can see that they have tried to transform this restaurant into a nice, local joint. Thanks to a very loud birthday party, the place was very noisy. We arrived at six, and were seated right away by a very hurried waiter. After we were given a few minutes to peruse the menu, this is what we ended up with.
The best way to judge a place that you have never been before is to go for a sampler platter, so it was a natural that we ordered the aptly named, Carolina's Sampler Platter. This platter featured buffalo wings, calamari, fried mozzarella, and fried zucchini. The best of the bunch was the zucchini. The breading was decent, and not over bearing. The fried cheese and buffalo wings were average to good. The outer coating of the calamari was very heavy, and the squid was too thickly cut for our taste.
With our pasta dinners we were served the Cheese Bread and Dinner Salads above. The cheese bread appeared to be their pizza dough, with cheese on top. Very good bread, and we ate two plates of this. The salads were just okay. I was not too big of a fan of the salad dressing. It was a very tangy Italian. I will opt for the Ranch dressing next time.
Starting off the entree portion of the show is the Meat Calzone. This featured a plethora of meats; sausage, meatballs, and ham, then topped with meat sauce and cheese. The picture of this does not do this calzone justice, because it was huge. Anthony loved the sausage and portion size of this, but he wished there was more cheese served with this calzone.
Sabrina could not make up her mind after looking at the huge menu, so she deffered to the waiter for his choice. She ended up with the Chicken Pesto. The chicken pesto here combines the chicken with a creamy pesto sauce, virgin olive oil, basil, garlic, and pine nuts. The result was a delicious plate. Sabrina was very enthusiastic about this meal. She felt the pasta was cooked well, the pine nuts were a great addition, and the sauce tied everything together. She exclaimed that she would definitely get this again.
If you are a devoted reader to the blog, you will not be surprised that Katie ordered a shrimp dish here. True to form she went with the Scampi Griglia. This dish consisted of bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions in a butter, garlic, and white wine sauce. She loved the flavorful shrimp, and felt the veggies were cooked to perfection. I tried this dish, and would have liked a thicker sauce, but that is just my taste.
Much like my reasoning about ordering a sampler platter for an appetizer, I went with the same thinking when choosing my dinner. Above is the Taste of Italy. This sampling of three different pasta dishes is supposed to resemble the Italian flag. Chicken Penne Pesto, Shrimp Fettuccini Alfredo and Spaghetti and Meatballs make up the three colors of the flag. Like Sabrina, my favorite part of this meal was the Chicken Pesto. The sauce was very good, and the chicken was very tender. I liked the spaghetti next, but would have liked another meatball here. The marinara sauce was pretty good though. The shrimp alfredo was not bad, but the sauce needed to be thickened. Overall, this mound of food really satisfied me.
I am not usually a big fan of Tiramisu, but Carolina's claims to have a good one that is homemade. This tiramisu is very light, and not heavy like others I have had. It is also less damp than others. I might even get this again next time.
We were all full from dinner, but of course we could not resist another dessert. The Chocolate Mousse Cake
was another one of our choices. The mousse was very light, but the crust could have been richer. Chocolate mousse is never a bad option for me though.
Okay this is the last dessert, I promise. All dinners come with Spumoni Ice Cream for dessert. Spumoni, if you have never had it, is an Italian ice cream consisting usually of three different flavors with candied fruit and nts added. Very refreshing and light to contrast heavy Italian meals. The spumoni here was refreshing and cool. A great way to end an Italian meal.
Going to Carolina's was a very happy accident. We had not meant to come here, but it was a very pleasant surprise. The menu is varied, so you will definitely find something to satisfy you. The prices are a little on the high side, for the area that they are in, but the portions are huge. In fact, I have a big appetite, and even I had leftovers the next two days for lunch. The service was a little on the gruff side, but that might have been because they were so busy with that large party. We would definitely make a return visit to Carolina's.
So out of five palmettos, (The state tree of South Carolina, and the reason they are nicknamed the Palmetto state. See, you do not have to watch Jeopardy to learn things!), five being best to zero being worst, Carolina's gets 3 solid palmettos.
For more information on Carolina's, click here: http://www.carolinasitalianrestaurant.com/index.htm