Carino's Italian is a United States-based chain of Italian food casual dining restaurants. It has more than 170 restaurants with branches in about 30 states. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, the concept is owned by Fired Up, Inc., which was founded in 1997 by partners and former Brinker International executives Norman Abdallah and Creed Ford. Prior to 2006, restaurants were called Johnny Carino's Country Italian, Johnny Carino's Italian then changed to Carino's Italian Grill.



Meatballs a la Pizzaiola

Italian Restaurant Recipe

Makes 35-38 meatballs

8 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese
2 large shallots, chopped
1/4 cup (5-6) sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck (80% lean)
1 pound ground pork
olive oil, for frying
vegetable oil, for frying
marinara sauce, warmed, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Dice the smoked mozzarella into 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, shredded mozzarella, parmesan, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until blended. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the beef and pork and, using a wooden spoon or clean hands, stir until combined. Form into 1 1/2 inch meatballs. Insert 1 cube smoked mozzarella into the center of each meatball and form the meat around it, enclosing the cheese.

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, pour equal parts olive oil and vegetable oil to fill the pan halfway. Heat over medium high heat until a deep fry thermometer reaches 350 degrees. In batches, fry the meatballs until dark brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Place the fried meatballs on a foil lined baking sheet. Put in the oven and bake until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly, then serve immediately with marinara sauce, if desired.

Meat Sauce

Carino's Italian Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil  
1 1/2 lbs ground beef    
1 lb ground sausage    
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced    
1/2 cup carrots, diced    
2 teaspoon black pepper    
2 teaspoons salt    
1 teaspoon oregano    
1 teaspoon basil    
1 tablespoon garlic, fresh chopped    
1 teaspoon fennel seed ground  
2 quarts (64 oz.) tomato sauce    
1 cup water    
2 teaspoons sugar    
1 (14 oz.) can beef broth    

In a large, heated stock pot add the olive oil, ground beef and sausage.  Brown ground beef slightly. Into the heated pot add the onions, celery, carrots, black pepper, salt, oregano, basil, garlic and fennel.  Saute until meat is thoroughly cooked and all vegetables are soft. Mix the water, sugar and beef broth in a separate container.  Add this mixture and the tomato sauce to the pot.  Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Penne Chicken Alfredo

Carino's Italian Grill Recipe

Alfredo Sauce
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 tbsp black pepper
1/4 cup whole milk

Saute heavy cream, milk, and black pepper to a consistent boil. Remove cream mixture from heat and fold in parmesan cheese. Store completed sauce in refrigerator until use.

2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup chopped cooked bacon
1/4 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, salt, and pepper
1/4 cup peas
1/4 cup sliced cooked chicken
1/2 cup Alfredo sauce
10 oz. penne pasta

In a warm saute pan combine butter, mushrooms, bacon, peas, tomatoes, chicken, and spice mixture. Saute until mushrooms are a golden brown and tomatoes begin to dissolve. Add Alfredo sauce and continue to saute until an internal temperature of 165 degrees is reached. Remove from flame, add pasta, toss, and serve.

Chicken Caesar Sandwich

Carino's Copycat Recipe

Serves 4

1/3 cup mayonnaise
5 jarred marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon style mustard
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons basil pesto
4 fresh onion rolls, cut in half horizontally
2 hearts of romaine lettuce leaves, trimmed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
For the sauce:  In a small food processor or blender, puree all the sauce ingredients, and then set aside or keep chilled in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the chicken: In a shallow bowl whisk the garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest and pesto together. Place the chicken in the marinade, coating both sides, and let marinate for 10 minutes.
Heat the grill to medium.  Grill the chicken, covered, for 6-7 minutes per side, until chicken is no longer pink inside. During the last minute of cooking, place rolls cut side down on the outer edge of the grill rack to toast lightly.

To assemble, spread sauce on the inside of the rolls. Slice chicken and arrange over sauce, topping with romaine lettuce.

Pepperoni Burger

When chefs and restaurateurs look at food trends to determine what types of new dishes to create – ‘comfort food’ always tops the list.  What exactly is ‘comfort food’?  Well, I think it includes the type of items that we all grew up on and have on a regular basis, especially at home and at family functions that involve food.  My role as a chef is to take these sorts of food ideas and make them unique, delicious and fit the Carino’s menu that our guests can appreciate.  That is the basis for the new Crispy Pepperoni Burger – Think of it as an Italian Cheeseburger… version has San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, parmesan and fried pepperoni.  We get our bun from a delicious Italian bakery and the meat is a half-pound Black Angus chuck patty.