Thursday, June 19, 2003

Italian restaurant coming to Crestview

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CRESTVIEW HILLS - The Tristate's second Carrabba's Italian Grill could spur the redevelopment of the nearly vacant Crestview Hills Mall this summer.

Construction of the brick and stucco restaurant featuring a Mediterranean rooftop garden should begin by late July in front of the mall on a 1.7-acre site at Dixie Highway and Interstate 275, developer Bob Frey said.

The joint-venture partner has developed eight Carrabba's restaurants in four states, with locations in Lexington, Louisville and Deerfield Township. His application for a building and zoning permit for the Crestview Hills restaurant is pending with the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission.

"The Crestview Hills restaurant should be a great complement to our northeastern location (in Deerfield Township)," Frey said. "We're hopeful that we'll be able to start construction by the end of July. Our goal is to have it open by Thanksgiving."

Mayor Paul Meier said he's looking forward to the new development near the popular Panera Bread that opened last year. "I think it will be the start of redevelopment of the mall," Meier said.

Cincinnati developer Jeff Anderson has said that withthe new Carrabba's Italian Grill and a Trio restaurant he would proceed with plans to raze most of the mall, except for a Dillard's department store, and develop a "lifestyle center" shopping center in its place. He has said the project would be similar to Rookwood Commons, a collection of trendy shops and restaurants that he developed in Norwood.

Founded 17 years ago in Houston by Johnny Carrabba and Damian Mandola, the chain in 1993 sold half its interest to Outback Steakhouse Inc The company operates 132 sites in 27 states.

Known for its northern Italian cuisine and Italian and California wines, the Carrabba's concept is derived from the family meals that Damian's mother and Johnny's grandmother used to prepare on Sundays with Sicilian recipes passed down for generations. Favorites include chicken marsala, lasagna and manicotti. The restaurant makes its own salad dressings and croutons and all of the meats are fresh.

The one-story, 6,340-square-foot restaurant will feature a brick and stucco exterior. Stone planters at ground level will surround a patio area with ceiling fans, and the covered patio will be topped by a rooftop garden with its own irrigation system, Frey said.

Inside, grape vines will hang from trellises in the bar and over some of the booths in the dining area.

Crestview Hills' Carrabba's will seat about 230 people, including the bar area.

Customers can watch a ballgame in the bar or dine at "family tables" where dishes are served family-style.

Stuart Morrison, a Park Hills resident who has dined at various Carrabba's locations, predicted the restaurant will draw from the surrounding Northern Kentucky suburbs, as well as from travelers. "It's right off I-275 and it's close to a lot of cities," Morrison said.


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