Thursday, November 1, 2012

Maggiano's Little Italy: Comfortable Italian

Maggiano's Little Italy is actually a really good restaurant.
He's my secret: I hate going out to eat for Italian food.  OK, maybe that's not really a secret, because I try to tell people this often!  I can definitely make Italian food better at home!
I really like Maggiano's though.  It's a mix of ambiance, the kind service, and the food that makes me want to go to this Italian restaurant.  All of the food is served Family Style.  That means, large dishes of food are served to the table, and then, passed around for everyone to try.  If you don't know the people you are sitting with, you will get to know them pretty quick, by the time the food is passed around! 
This is a chain restaurant, but it started a a little family owned place in Chicago.  A company that my business distributes, takes us out to dinner every year when we are at Midwest Conference.  The first year, the nice people of the company kept saying, "We're going to Little Italy!  This place is great!"  When the limo dropped us off at "Little Italy," I quickly figured out that it was a Maggiano's.  I was actually a little bit disappointed. I had been to the restaurant in Indianapolis, and really wasn't impressed.  The charm of the Chicago location, which is actually the original location grew on me, and I really enjoyed it!
Since I had been to the original location, when I got back to Indy, I decided to try it again.  The first time I had gone, it was with a group of women for a Girls' Night Out with some women I didn't know or hadn't met before.  Not that I don't like hanging out with the Girls, but eating Family Style with people you've never met before, can be kind of awkward.  I decided to give it another try!  Plus, Maggiano's had sent me a coupon via email for $10 off.  That gave me some encouragement to try it again!  Ian and I have gone a few more times since then.  We usually go when we receive a coupon or have an event to celebrate. 
Maggiano's serves a dinner for two for $39.95.  This dinner includes an appetizer, side salad, or flatbread, two main dishes chosen from the Classic Pastas, and a full size dessert to share.
This restaurant averages $20 a person before buying drinks. 
My Strawberry Ice Tea
I started with the Strawberry Ice Tea.  There are other flavors of tea, like blue berry and peach.  Maggiano's also has soda and a full bar.  As you can see from my tea picture, it is really dark in the restaurant.  It creates a romantic feel for the customers, but it's a pain to take pictures on my phone in there! We were shining a light from Ian's phone on the food, while I was taking the pictures.  I had a flash light in my purse, and we tried to use that, but I was slightly embarrassed that people were watching us! I usually don't tell the server or the restaurant that I'm going to be reviewing the restaurant.
Bread and Olive Oil
They always bring out this amazing bread that can be dunked in olive oil. I won't lie, this is one of the things I absolutely love about this place!  As you can see, I dump a bunch of olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and freshly ground pepper on to my plate and start dunking away.  This time, the Parmesan cheese was in a shaker, when it is normally in a bowl and it can be spooned out.  I didn't know if this was a money saving measure, or just a random thing.  The table next to ours had a bowl of cheese.  Ian and I can usually devour at least two baskets of bread before the regular meal gets to our table. 


Sausage and Peppers Appetizer
Normally, we like to get the Stuffed Mushroom Appetizer, but this time, we decided to go with the Sausage and Peppers Appetizer. The sausages had a really nice spicy kick to them.  The peppers were sweet bell peppers that complemented the sausages really well.  I definitely will be getting this appetizer again!

Baked Rigatoni Pomodoro
 Ian ordered the Baked Rigatoni Pomodoro for his dinner.  This is Rigatoni pasta in pomodoro sauce with sliced Calabrian chicken sausage, roasted peppers and smoked mozzarella.  He really likes this dish.  Sometimes, we get this dishes and share them.  When he's got this before, I've tried it.  I'm not big on baked pasta in general.
Four Cheese Ravioli
The Four Cheese Ravioli is the dish I get pretty much every time Ian and I go.  This is Ravioli stuffed with Ricotta cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella and Provolone. Served in a pesto-alfredo cream sauce with a touch of marinara.  I love this ravioli, and it is something I don't make at home!  When it's fresh from the kitchen, the cheese and sauce are amazing!  I've never made a creamy pesto sauce at home.  This dish is baked just enough after it is made to get the pretty brown spots on the top.  I am a meat eater, so, for me to pick a main course that is mostly cheese and sauce is very weird for me!  I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good cheese ravioli.  The weird thing about Maggiono's is, they serve Bartoli Sauce.  It can be bought in just about any grocery store.  I just don't make Ravioli at home!
Creme Brule
For our dessert, we often get the Tiramasu, but this time, I decided to get the Creme Brule.  I love creme brule!  It's a dish I have not accomplished making at home.  This dish was beautiful!  The creme brule had a little bit more of an egg flavor than I expected, but it wasn't enough to hurt the dessert.  One thing I don't like is a custard that tastes like eggs and sugar cooked together, and not custard.  Even though I was already full when the dessert came out, I know I consumed more than half of this dish!
 One of the awesome things about Maggiano's is, you get a full main course to take home, and it doesn't have to be the exact same thing you ordered for dinner! I took home Four Cheese Ravioli and Ian took home Taylor Street Baked Ziti and Sausage.  I'll have to admit, I was over eating pasta by the fourth day of eating these dishes!  We make a meal of these, and cook a Pillsbury French Bread (It's crustier than the Italian.) to eat with the pasta for dinner.
This restaurant is one of the more costly ones that Ian and I eat at.  By the time we've ordered dinner and our drinks and added a tip, it's pretty close to $55-$60 for two people! We do get to eat lunches and dinners for a few days afterward, which cuts down on the grocery budget.
The atmosphere is really nice, and George, or server was really pretty good.  We always try to make a reservation before we go.  This doesn't always mean you get in as soon as you get there.  We still end up waiting an average of 15-30 minutes with reservations.
Things I like about Maggiono's are: I love the bread and oil.  I would choose this any day over bread sticks.  The service is usually on point.  I love the choices of appetizers and desserts that are part of the meal.
I guess that we could eat here cheaper, but getting the meal deal is part of the experience for me.  Knowing that the appetizer and dessert are coming no matter what, is awesome!  Remember, I can eat pasta at home any time.  Trying the appetizers and desserts are part of the fun! Even if you don't get the meal deal and just get main dishes, you still get to take a main course home for later.  (Olive Garden has been doing this lately to compete!)
The restaurant can feel a little dark in the evening, which can be considered romantic, but eating in close proximity with 100 or more strangers isn't that romantic to me. It can also be a bit loud at times, with entire families and groups having parties in the same room as you having your date night.
I give Maggiano's Little Italy 3 pizza pies out of 4.  It's a comfortable restaurant with good food.  If you ever get a chance, visit the original Chicago location.  It has an awesome atmosphere and a great history!   

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