Saturday, August 28, 2010

Maggiano’s Little Italy in the Domain – Austin, TX, August 26, 2010

I’m not a chain snob. Many food forums I read, including one that rhymes with “cow pound” have posts from people who seem to feel chains are beneath them, or incapable of serving good food. Of course, these same people will recommend dreck like Maudie’s, Kerbey Lane, Jorge’s, and Enchiladas y Más. If a chain serves food I like, and enjoy, I’m not ashamed of it, and you shouldn’t be either.

I went to Maggiano’s Little Italy for lunch. It’s a very nice looking restaurant in the Domain right next to Dillards. The interior was much bigger than I thought it would be and it looks like the type of dining room you would find in an expensive hotel. The bar area had a lot of dark word and dim lighting and looked really appealing. The kind of place Don Draper and Roger Sterling would have after another hard day of lying on their office couches “working”.

Our waiter was far too interested in pushing the Maggiano’s feel, “we’re a scratch kitchen which means everything is made from scratch…If you have food allergies, let us know and the chef will come out and talk to you.” We get it, this isn’t Olive Garden. Guess I won’t be bringing my Italian uncle to come eat here.

They have a deal where you buy one bowl of pasta and you get another to go (it doesn’t have to be the same dish) for about $13. My lunch dish was eggplant parmesan, my favorite variety of parmesan. My to-go dish was spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve recently (in the past year) become a fan of meatballs after considering them kids’ food. The food came out and it looked fine. I was hungry so I cut my eggplant before I took a picture. That won’t be the last time that happens.

The eggplant was flavorful, and the pasta was cooked well. Unfortunately the sauce suffered from chain style preparation. Not wanting to offend anyone with strong garlic, onion, or wine they just decide to walk behind the Morton Salt girl with their saucepan. There were no delicate or subtle flavors in the sauce like at North, and no strong old style red sauce comfort, just harsh tomato and salt. It just had no “love” or care in it, and I was left underwhelmed. While not overpriced for two meals, it would have been for one. Johnny Carino’s is a better deal with better food for chain Italian. Next time I’ll skip lunch and head straight for the bar.