Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Maggiano’s Little Italy: The ultimate food and stomach face-off… family style!

Maggiano’s is a great venue for a family style meal in an adult atmosphere. Try to venture past the tourists, get to this South International Drive location, and delve into some serious eating.

A large space with a lounge and private rooms, Maggiano’s always seems to be over-capacity every time I’ve gone there. That’s probably because entire families or corporate businesses are out there munching on the floor. ‘Family-style’ involves three different price options that delineate the variety of appetizers, salads, entrées, and desserts you can have. This evening I opted for the ‘Classic’ ($27.95 adults, $15.95 for aged 5-12). To start off, I chose the Steamed Mussels, Barb’s Spinach and Artichoke al Forno, Maggiano’s Salad, and a Caesar Salad. Four Cheese Ravioli, Braised Beef Cannelloni, Seared Pork Medallions, and Chicken Saltimbocca were ordered for main course while Apple Crostada, and Crème Brûlée were requested as desserts.

If the previous sentences didn’t entail, THIS IS A LOT OF FOOD- WITH UNLIMITED REFILLS! So here was my game plan…. nibble and save my hunger for the main course and the brûlée. Bring it, Maggiano’s!

Great reviews stirred across the table when the Steamed Mussels arrived. They proved to be the star of the starters. In a momentary lapse of judgment, I ordered TWO MORE plates of them. The garlic and herb-infused broth was so tasty. Plus, the crostinis accompanying them made sopping the juice even more addictive. “What have I done?,” I thought… almost feeling as though the premature satiation was a crime!

As I panicked, my plan started to unravel. The delicious Maggiano’s Salad (a mixture of romaine and iceberg lettuce, onions, and tossed in Maggiano’s special dressing of mustard, garlic, and vinegar) looked with puppy-dog eyes towards my mouth. And my stomach enlarged a bit further.
I think if I was wearing a belt, it would be around this time that I would free it open a couple of notches. The main course arrived in one triumphant swoop. Like a boxing match, my stomach was in one corner while four plates lay in the other. It was ON…

First the Four Cheese Ravioli- cheesy but lacked complexity. TKO (total knock-out) - stomach wins and proceeds to plate #2. The Chicken Saltimbocca. Ok, but not flavorful enough. TKO- stomach conquers dry chicken. Moving over to the Seared Pork Medallions. It turned out to be the crowd pleaser. Everyone on the table that bit into it had a two-minute silence right afterwards. Juicy, flavorful, fatty, tender, moist, and seasoned to perfection. In other words, a mini orgasm. And stomach goes down fighting.

My personal favorite, however, was Plate #4- the Braised Beef Cannelloni. It was not the pasta shell that really enticed my tongue, but how well done the beef within was. Superiorly shredded and juicy, it was almost reminiscent of barbeque. With one forkful after another, my stomach was being punched even when it was already down. Winner- Braised Beef.

“Dessert. Really? Oh no… my Brûlée!” I had totally forgotten. They arrived and my stomach was going to retaliate very loudly if even one more spoon landed in my mouth. But I had to try it- the Brûlée. MMMM…Deliciousness. I almost cried like a five-year old because I couldn’t have more.

IN A NUTSHELL: Family style is for parties of 4 or more individuals. Beef lovers can’t go wrong with Braised Beef Cannelloni. Seafood, you say? Mussels will start you off in the right direction. And please, save room for dessert. I know, it’s hard. I tried and failed myself. But above all, have fun with the family. On previous occasions that I’ve gone, service has been a problem (slow, long-time delivering additional food items, etc.) but ask for Heather and you’ll be waited on beautifully. Park at Pointe Orlando’s garage- your parking ticket will be validated by your server. A definite experience for the gang.
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