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Maggiano’s – Old Orchard

April 22, 2011
Due to arriving at Maggiano’s somewhat late (by suburban standards), it allowed us to get seated right away. Not long after we were seated, the patrons who were there quickly departed. This allowed for a relaxed atmosphere that was conducive for conversation. The atmosphere here is usually pretty relaxed. However, there have been a few times were you are packed in like cattle in a box car. When that is the case, it can even be uncomfortable to speak to someone across the table. Needless to say, it was nice to be able to relax a little after a long week at the office.
We were seated next to the menu/server station at the front of the house. The first thing I heard was one of the servers telling someone else, “Ben is complaining because he just got triple seated.” This was not said quietly. I even mentioned to my date that I thought it was rather unprofessional to say that, out loud, right behind and within earshot of customers. We both agreed that we hoped we weren’t sitting in Ben’s section. Almost immediately after this, I heard another server say, “F**k you!”, as he walked behind me. I couldn’t believe what was going on! We hadn’t been sitting down for more than five minutes and it already sounded like all hell was breaking loose. We both laughed it off in hopes it wasn’t an omen of our dining experience.

After we got our bread basket, we were greeted by our server….Ben. Soon to be Mrs. Castor-Rated and I just stared at each other and did all we could to not laugh out loud. All I could think was that we were going to get a sour-puss of a server who was going to be “too busy” to refill our drinks. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. Ben was very attentive to our needs and extremely patient when we weren’t quite ready to order. It was maybe some of the best service at a “chain restaurant” since I can remember. He made sure to be at our table every time our wine glasses need a refill and made certain our food was brought out promptly. Thank you, Ben.

Now on to the food….

We started off with an appetizer of Crispy Zucchini Fritte with Lemon Aioli. As you can see in the picture, Maggiano’s slices their zucchini in planks. Personally, I prefer this over “chips” or spears. They just seem a little more enjoyable to munch on. I am not sure how the kitchen makes the batter for their Frittes but I always think it is perfect. It is extremely crispy without being burnt or crunchy. Crispy versus crunchy? Yeah, there is a difference. I can’t tell what they put in the batter (I should have asked). It may be bread crumbs or parmesan cheese. It may be both. Either way, there is an obvious texture on the zucchini that you don’t get with a typical beer batter. The zucchini itself was a bit overcooked for my liking. Like most squash, zucchini can turn soft quickly when cooking. I would have preferred a little more snap when biting into the appetizer. They just needed to be a little more al dente. The lemon aioli was nothing too special. It just seemed to be a lemon-y tartar sauce with more ranch dressing added. I will say, however, the lemon did help to brighten the flavor a bit. Overall, I was satisfied and ate way too many of the little guys.

For my entrée, I decided on one of the evening’s specials: Fettuccini Bolognese with Veal Meatballs. I usually get Fettuccini Alfredo when going Italian because you can always judge an Italian restaurant by the quality of their Alfredo. However, I couldn’t pass this up. Let me tell you something…this plate was delicious! The Bolognese sauce was made with ground Italian sausage. The spices and pork flavor from the sausage added a complexity to the sauce that ground beef or veal could not achieve alone. The sauce also included large chunks of tomato that not only helped to cut the richness of the sausage but “freshened” the dish as a whole. The veal meatballs were very lean and light. Not only were these bad boys braised but they were seared on a couple sides. A detail that a lot of places or recipes overlook. At first bite, the noodles seemed a little underdone but as I dug deeper into the pile of pasta and sauce, the noodles became more al dente. I assume the seemingly “under doneness” of the  noodles was a result of the plate sitting under the heat lamp for a few. Although this little crunch prevents this dish from being perfect, I don’t think it ruined the meal. The great thing about this meal is that it made for good leftovers a couple days later.

My fiancé got her usual, angel hair and meat sauce. I always thought that Maggiano’s had nailed their meat sauce. A lot of good meaty flavor with a hint of something I still can’t put my finger on. I guess I have a couple questions the next time we go.

We decided to pair our dinner with a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling. It was light and sweet which went well with my wine based Bolognese. However, it still had a buttery richness, almost like a chardonnay, that also went well with a heavier sauce like the meat sauce.

At the end of our dinner, our server found out that we were planning on getting married several months from now. To help us celebrate, he brought out a plate of lemon cookies for dessert. On the house! It was a refreshing way to help finish off the evening. We left full and satisfied.

Overall, I would have to say this was one of my best experiences at Maggiano’s. The food was as near perfect as could be and our server, Ben was great. Kudos, Ben! Maggiano’s at Old Orchard definitely makes the cut in my book. My only complaint with Maggiano’s as a whole would be the fact that they obviously use Barilla noodles. They even advertise on their to-go bags! I can only imagine how much better my meal would be if they used fresh noodles. Just think about it! Still, this place is more than just a dressed up Olive Garden.

 

Castor-Rated:

4!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill permalink
    April 22, 2011 8:28 pm

    Excellent review and excellent writing.
    We always enjoy Maggiano’s herbed chicken. One order is more than enough for two plus take-home.

    • kruze1661 permalink*
      April 22, 2011 8:35 pm

      I think we still have some left!

  2. April 22, 2011 9:02 pm

    I’ll add my take on the service. I managed retail stores for six years before I started farming. Let’s equate the host/wait staff with my cashiers and service desk people. These are the employees that have the most ability to make or break a business. Even if your product is just decent a great cashier/waiter that engages the customers is enormously valuable. I’ve been on the receiving end of customer complaints about overhearing what employees are talking about. What’s worse is the customers that don’t tell you about it, because you may not get the chance to get them back. Ben is the hero in this story as you already know. He made your experience better, and I bet you’ll be back because of Ben and not just the food.

    Keep on eating and I’ll keep on reading!

    • kruze1661 permalink*
      April 22, 2011 9:11 pm

      If I knew I could get Ben everytime, I would be back tomorrow.

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