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Maggiano's Little Italy-Santana Row


tirgoddess
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Family and friends of mine, with various ranges of dining experience, have been raving about this place. I have not been there yet, but my neighborhood annual "Adult Night Out" dinner is planned to be there. My first thought about the place is formula food, maybe a notch above Bucca di Beppo. I was talking to a friend about the place and he said that everything there is already pre-prepared, that it comes out of bags ordered off site. I thought this sounded like a bit of a stretch. Any input on this?

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I have been to a location in DC several times. The food is just OK with the most enormous portions you have ever seen. Haven't been to Buca di Beppo, but from what I understand they are pretty similar places.

Bill Russell

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I think it's pretty good for what it is. The Maggiano's salad with the prosciutto nuggets, red onions & blue cheese, the "Rigatoni D" - chicken/shrooms in a marsala cream sauce, and the crispy onion strings are all good.

It's also very loud.

I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.

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My recent humble opinion: I just went to the one in Richmond VA last week. Everyone I was with was very excited about it before we arrived but calmed considerably as soon as we sat down. (4 others) After all the "hype" it seemed pretty bad. Our servers were not knowledgeable or accomodating, and they try to steer you towards the "family-style" menu )which is unappealing and overly complicated with price additions) and the more expensive or more fussy dishes.

I'm "doing Atkins" but I'm comfortable with the Italian places here in San Diego b/c they have strong meat entrees that I can enjoy. So I checked out the Maggiano's menu on line before i visited and every meat dish except the roast chicken was breaded, battered, or at least "dusted" with flour. I arrived, scanned the menu and noticed the descriptions were absent but the choices were the same. I ordered the roast chicken (1/2--$18 if I remember correctly). The rest of the group ordered--a pasta "special", a pasta with pesto, eggplant parmesan and another parmesan something. The two "parmesan" dishes looked like elementary school cafeteria food. I did not venture a bite. I had two bites of my friend's pesto. It was perfectly ok. decent quality pasta, fresh tasting sauce. The pasta special was pronounced not worth sampling. The roast chicken was huge, presented in large pices, a little "hacked-up" looking if you try to follow J. Pepin's chicken carving techniques at home. It seemed to be more than 1/2 a chicken. The dark meat was flavorful, breast not so much. The skin was well seasoned but not crispy at all. One of the joys of Atkins is that I can eat chicken skin, so i was disproportionately disappointed.

I complained to my DC friends at dinner at a trendy mezze place the next night, and they opined that it's ok for lunch, decent sandwiches, a step up from Sbarro. We asked the Bucca di Beppo question, but none of our crowd had tried that one.

Anyone else?

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My first thought about the place is formula food, maybe a notch above Bucca di Beppo.

This is exactly how I would describe it.

I have experience at the Orange County Maggiano's. I always order pasta, usually the linguine with clam sauce, and it always comes out al dente, well flavored sauce...decent. I think they do the basics pretty well, and the restaurant (at least the OC one) is comfortable, if somewhat loud.

-edit Service has always been competent at whenever I have gone here.

Also, I think the big portions really win people over. More is more, contrary to popular opinion.

Edited by jschyun (log)

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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Maggiano's won Citysearch's poll for #1 best "Italian" food in Chicago.

Not to malign Chicago tastes, but this is about what you can expect - a midwestern interpretation of Italian-American food.

You can do better at Cazuelas or Left Bank or Straits Cafe. They are all at Santana Row.

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Being a former Chicagoan, I have to say the the Citysearch polls are not usually on the mark. For example, we went to one of the places here in the Twin Cities that according to the Citysearch poll was supposed to have the best margaritas. They didn't. In fact, they didn't even serve alcohol!

There are plenty of excellent Italian restaurants in Chicago that are 10x better than Maggiano's. I don't think the people who usually participate in the Citysearch polls are the kind that would actually seek out the truly good Italian restaurants. In Chicago, at least.

Can you tell I'm not a big fan of Citysearch? :raz:

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Maggiano's won Citysearch's poll for #1 best "Italian" food in Chicago.

Not to malign Chicago tastes, but this is about what you can expect - a midwestern interpretation of Italian-American food.

You can do better at Cazuelas or Left Bank or Straits Cafe.  They are all at Santana Row.

I think this says more about the sort of people who vote in Citysearch polls than it does about Chicago tastes or Midwestern interpretations. Look at the Citysearch results for any decent metropolis (you might start right here on eGullet), and you'll see that chains predominate.

Edit to add the nearly superfluous observation that Chicago has a significant Italian-American population, and many excellent Italian restaurants. IMO, it's one of the better cities in the US for Italian and Italian-American dining, with or without Maggiano's (which, btw, is owned by the same company that owns and/or operates Chili's, Macaroni Grill, On The Border and a number of other chains, and is based not in the Midwest, but in Dallas, Texas).

Edited by Dave the Cook (log)

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Maggiano's won Citysearch's poll for #1 best "Italian" food in Chicago.

Not to malign Chicago tastes, but this is about what you can expect - a midwestern interpretation of Italian-American food.

I have to agree with Dave the Cook - as a fairly recent transplant to this city, I can happily say that Chicago is a GREAT city for Italian-American food (and many other ethnic types of food).

Still, if its snobbery like this that keeps the rents down here, I can live with it :raz:

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You wish! Cost of living is one of the few things that keeps us from moving to Chicago. I (denise), would love to move back. But the thought of paying three times as much for a comparable house in Chicago keeps us in St. Paul. That and my family! Who, by the way, think Maggiano's is okay, but would rather eat pasta at the little neighborhood Italian resturant on the corner any day! I think Buca and Maggiano's, both of which we now have here, are okay if you have a big group, but we wouldn't expect the same quality of food that you would find at a smaller scale and nicer restaurants.

...
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Well, we just had our annual neighborhood adult night out at Maggiano's (Santana Row) and it was sub par at best. It was $50 per person. There were two apps, two salads, chicken marsala (sauce was not deglazed pan sauce, seemed pre-prepared and poured on top), roasted veg pasta (shells, w/ a filmy after taste), salmon w/spinach, chicken spinach manicotti, pound cake w/ ice cream & fruit plate. Yes, lots of food, but poor execution and quite flavorless (except for the stuffed mushroom app and the manicotti). There was no cocktail/wine service in our private room which was a royal pain in the ass. I was reminded of the Cheesecake Factory thread, because this place makes people wait on top of each other for their tables. The bar was stacked and it took about 15 min. to get a drink. I ordered my cocktail and my glass of wine at the same time to avoid the wait again. Folks were bumping into each other all over the place. I think that they were missing a profit opportunity by not offering beverage service in the room. It was nice to visit with our neighbors and that really was the point of the whole thing. In the future, I will stick with the smaller places that put more thought into their food.

Edited to finish sentence.

Edited by tirgoddess (log)
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In a word - Maggianos "Sucks". Huge portions of very mediocre food produced by the industrial kitchens of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and served in an overcrowded / rushed atomsphere. I've lived in Chicago for over 25 years and, unfortunately, have eaten at one or another of their locations several times (primarily as a captive guest for business purposes). Having learned the hard way, I now normally get whatever soup their offering and let it be done at that.

I get a kick out of the part when the wait person asks you if you would like to take your leftovers with you. If I didn't like the crap at lunch, why in the world would I want to take it home.

As it goes with much of America however, it's an oasis and fueling station for those whose priority is quantity.

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denise_jer

Posted on Nov 12 2003, 03:02 PM

Maggiano's (which, btw, is owned by the same company that owns and/or operates Chili's, Macaroni Grill, On The Border and a number of other chains, and is based not in the Midwest, but in Dallas, Texas).

Wow! I didn't realize that they were a Brinker subsidiary!

According to the Brinker International website, they are the "mutual fund of casual dining". Now, is that really a good thing? :blink:

In fact, don't they have a bit of a monopoly on that corner? Unless I'm mistaken, there's a Chili's right across the street on Winchester.

Yep, for "family style" Italian chain restaurant fare, hit Buca di Beppo. Better decor and the eggplant parm is especially good on a french roll the next day. In Santana Row, go to Pizza Antica. They do a dandy little Neopolitan pizza and the pasta ain't bad, either.

Cheers!

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  • 3 weeks later...

You can do better at Cazuelas

We were at Santana Row a couple of weeks ago, and strolled by Cazuelas, which a foodie friend of mine said was fabulous. A young man was eating outside, and we stopped to ask how his food was. It looked great. He said they make the guacamole on the spot, according to your tastes. You tell them how much of everything you like it, and that his was perfect. He also raved about the margaritas. It was a cute little mini-commercial, and you can bet we'll be eating there next time we go to Santana Row.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We went to Cazuela's earlier this week- yum. (Although I like my guacamole better. :raz: ) It was spicy like requestd but I should have tasted it before he left... it needed a bit more salt and lime for my tastes. The leg of lamb was awesome, and the au gratin potatoes tasty and different. Chicken mole was good, although I'm not a huge mole fan.

The decor was nice and the blue and white plates really decorative. Why can't more places have good food AND decor?

Oh, I agree, Maggiano's has big portions of bland foods. (and a loud, crowded atmosphere). There are many other chains I'd rather eat at if given the choice of only Italian chains (like Macaroni Grill).

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Not to malign Chicago tastes, but this is about what you can expect - a midwestern interpretation of Italian-American food.

Chicago has an enormous Italian-American population dating back over a hundred years. I'd put the food served on Taylor Street or in the Heart of Italy or even a northwest side joint like Manzo's or Sabatino's up against anything offered as Italian or Italian-American in San Francisco any day. I'd say the same for the many old-school red sauce houses in places like Cleveland, Ohio or Syracuse, New York or any number of Italian-American gastronomic tidepools in this diverse land of ours. Unlike wine, with the great transportation systems we have here, for cooking "terroir" is more or less irrelevant in this country. That said, there are so many great restaurants in and around San Francisco, there is absolutely no reason to stoop to eating at an outpost of Maggiano's, Bucco de Beppo or any other equivalent if you don't want to; so just don't.

Also, as a philological/philosophical/sociological note, I would ask you please not to use the words "midwestern interpretation" interchangably with "corporate interpretation" -- i.e., please don't equate "midwest" with "undifferentiated, bland and undiscriminating." That equivalency only demonstrates your own provincialness, not that of those you attempt to target. There's plenty of bland food sickness everywhere, and San Francisco certainly ain't immune to that disease, or to its coprporate imputation. (That Hardee's "Frisco Melt" cheeseburger a few years back was pretty darned tasty, if I do say so.)

Finally, and by the way, Maggiano's originated in Chicago; I've eaten there many times over the last 10 years. It used to be better, and based on what I've read here, it's still somehow better here than elsewhere; but that's always true with chains, isn't it?

In abdomen veritas

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Maggiano's won Citysearch's poll for #1 best "Italian" food in Chicago.

Not to malign Chicago tastes, but this is about what you can expect - a midwestern interpretation of Italian-American food.

*Groan* :angry:

Since there are absolutely no people of Italian-descent living anywhere near Chicago (among our ~3M), this must be true. And of course, Citysearch's reputation as a source of valuable information is unquestionable...not to malign them or anything :wink:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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We ate at the branch at The Grove in LA. The food was big and bland as described, BUT they did go out of their way to treat us and our friends and our respective rowdy toddlers with kid gloves. That--not the food--impressed me.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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