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July 29, 2005
There isn’t a lot of flash or sizzle at Maggiano’s; you will likely recognize every single dish on the menu. They offer a variety of fresh-baked breads, appetizers, pastas and sauces, chicken dishes, and "meatier" fare (steaks, chops, and veal), all augmented by a very serviceable wine list and full bar. The pasta options and cooked-to-order style make Maggiano’s a good option for vegetarians (unless of course you are going low or no carb). For larger parties (10 or more), a family-style menu of selected items is offered.
Here are some recently sampled entrees.
Chicken Vesuvio: A mix of drumsticks and breasts (on the bone), with the requisite potato wedges and peas, browned in a mix of garlic, olive oil, white wine, and oregano. It is generally accepted that chicken Vesuvio originated in Chicago, and it has become a staple of many local restaurants. While very good, other restaurants in Chicago (in particular Harry Caray’s) do a better job of producing this favorite.
Lasagna: You know it well--wide, wavy pasta strips layered with ricotta cheese and meat sauce. This slice stands at least 4 inches high on the piping hot plate and swims in marinara sauce, offered with meat or without (the lasagna itself has meat). Very good for dinner (and lunch the next day, and dinner again the day after).
"Rigatoni D:" Roasted, boneless chicken and mushrooms are mixed in with rigatoni, and served in a cream Marsala sauce. The mushrooms (bite size) are very good, as is the chicken. This dish might be more interesting if the Marsala sauce was served traditional, not creamy. While not nearly as heavy as Alfredo sauce, the Marsala definitely lost a little zing with the cream base. Still very tasty of course.
Pesto Linguine: Chunks of boneless chicken and a scattering of pine nuts complement the pesto linguine. This dish is outstanding: the pesto sauce is consistently fresh and the chicken is very moist and tender. The pine nuts add some texture and taste.
Filet Mignon: Checking in at close to $30 for the large cut, this steak is a monster. It is served without pretense: it arrives sizzling in its own juices, sprinkled with just a thin layer of onion strings as an accompaniment. It really doesn’t need anything else, but remember, butterflying is for wimps.
From journal Chicago Dining
March 21, 2005
If you do end up having to wait a few minutes, take advantage of the bar; their drinks are fabulous. I would recommend the cosmo, and they also make a fabulous sour-apple martini. My father is a fan of their Manhattans straight up. There is an extensive wine list. The bar area is dark and intimate, with burgundy and dark wood. It is usually busy. Don’t come here if you are looking for an intimate moment.
The decor in Maggiano’s is all dark woods and deep reds with accent pieces. There is enough here to keep little ones very occupied, with pictures of famous Italians and original pictures and menus all over the walls.
For food, go for it family style. It isn’t worth it for everyone to order their own entrée; there are too many different items that you will want to taste. Their portions are huge, even the half orders. For an appetizer I would suggest starting with the bruschetta or the calamari, as both are done very well.
I have yet to find something that I don’t like on the menu. A must is the house salad, though. The dressing is amazing and the rest of the salad is great (if you don’t like blue cheese, have them put it on the side, as there is a ton of it). For pasta items, I strongly suggest the shells and shrimp. The shrimp are large and cooked perfectly, and the sauce is light, very flavorful, and not overburdened by the taste of tomatoes or seafood. In addition, the clams linguine is amazing. I have never had it in the red sauce, but it is my favorite dish in the white sauce. There are a ton of clams, a light sauce, and a good bit of garlic. The fettuccine alfredo and spaghetti and meatballs may seem a little basic, but they are good, very, very good.
Now, that’s just the pastas! For entrées I would strongly suggest the chicken giardinaire. It is a pounded chicken breast that is breaded and then cooked. It is smothered with giardinaire, and the tastes are very complimentary.
For dessert you must attempt Nonna’s pound cake, which is my favorite dessert here. It is pound cake with caramelized bananas, hot fudge sauce, and a good serving of vanilla ice cream. Once again, this is pretty large and can be shared among several people. If you are a fairly large party, I would suggest that you do the family-dining menu. If you can, order everything that you like on it! It is a good price and all-you-can-eat, so even if you finish what they give you, you can always get more!
From journal Windy City Spots
los angeles, California
February 25, 2003
The wait to get in this place is not nice and I wished I'd made reservations, but I enjoyed every minute of the meal, so I'm not saying this to complain, but instead to inform you not to make the same mistake that I made. Definitely call ahead.
The food was wonderful -- and there's only too much of it if you think of each entree as food for one. If you instead think of each plate as food for two hungry/four normal eaters - then you get an idea of the portions and how you should order.
I should clarify, this was not the best Italian food I've ever had, but it was lovely and the atmosphere was perfect for a family meal. There are so many restaurants where it's not comfortable to bring 'lively' children and it was a relief whenever I found places that welcomed a bit of noise (in the way of unceasing little girl chatter). The dining room was crowded but not too much, the wait staff and management were quite friendly and accommodating, the patrons were all happy and extremely well fed.
Fortunately there were six of us for dinner so we could order more than one dish!
We had the calamari - quite nice, good sauce. Chopped salad (hold the bleu cheese) - with their 'famous' salad dressing. I don't remember the dressing as being remarkable but I do remember everyone telling me it was remarkable - if that makes any sense. Following we had spinach with lemon and garlic, chicken vesuvio and gnocchi (we split everything). The chicken was great and the gnocchi were the right texture.
So, do I recommend Maggiano's for a romantic meal, absolutely not. For a gourmet meal? No. For a bunch of friends or family that want to talk and eat and drink very good food - yes. In fact, I imagine at this place, the more people at your table, the better since you can order more food and make even more noise than we did.
From journal Chicago on a Budget with Children