Saturday, February 18, 2006

Italian eatery may be headed for Roanoke

Carrabba's Italian Grill could open as early as July in an outparcel at Valley View Mall, according to an investor.

By Jenny Kincaid Boone
The Roanoke Times

Carrabba's Italian Grill likely is coming to Roanoke, Va..

An owner of the new Roanoke Carrabba's says the restaurant will open at a new retail center planned at Valley View Mall, though a spokeswoman for the upscale Italian chain based in Florida would not confirm that it will have a Roanoke Valley presence.

Michael Wright, a Roanoke resident, said that Carrabba's will move into a 5,800-square-foot spot at the District at Valley View in July. The new shopping center would consist of at least 10 different shops and restaurants, ranging in size from 1,500 square feet to 27,000 square feet. The buildings would go up in the parking lot in front of one side of Sears, a mall food-court entrance and one entrance of J.C.Penney.

No other restaurants or retailers have been named yet for the new center, and CBL & Associates Properties, the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based company that is developing the project, would not discuss further details about the new shops.

Andi Jacobs, a spokeswoman for Carrabba's, said the restaurant has not signed a lease for a Roanoke location, but she said, "We are actively pursuing a site. Roanoke is definitely a market that we want to be in."

She added, "We would hope that something will happen this year."

Wright, who has managed other restaurants locally, said that Carrabba's will take a space in a building that will house three retailers at the new retail center and will sit alongside Ring Road and across the street from National Tire and Battery.

Outback Steakhouse Inc., based in Tampa, Fla., owns Carrabba's -- named for the Sicilian family of its founder -- and several other restaurant brands, including Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill and Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Jacobs said the company has managing partners like Wright, also called proprietors, who have an ownership stake in a particular restaurant. Proprietors, who have five-year contracts, operate each restaurant, though OSI owns them, Jacobs said.

They invest $25,000 in each venture and on top of having an annual salary, get a percentage of the restaurant's profits, Jacobs said.

Carrabba's serves Italian fare in an upscale environment.

Some dishes are basic, such as lasagna and spaghetti, while others are more exotic, such as margherita pizza and mezzaluna.

The nearest Carrabba's is in Greensboro, N.C. There are about 200 Carrabba's restaurants nationwide and 25 new locations are planned for 2006, according to a company press release.

One restaurant under the Outback company's umbrella already has announced that it's coming to the Roanoke Valley. Bonefish Grill, which serves seafood and chicken dishes, will open a location at Keagy Village, a planned retail and office center in Roanoke County that will go up at Keagy and Electric roads.

Some of the first retailers in this development could open sometime this year.

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