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Macaroni Grill

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We received a gift certificate to Romano's Macaroni Grill.
I went only once a while back and was not impressed. Any recommendations?

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    1. re: TonyO

      LOL!!! Good one, Tony! He's right, Anne! They do have a fully stocked bar! But avoid the food! My husband still complains about the last time we ate there!

      1. Yea, and there may even be a decent appetizer to round out the experience !

        1. The free bread and dipping oil is good. The waitstaff who are mandated to write their name on your paper tablecloth - not so much.

          The waitstaff used to sing but I'm not sure if they break into song anymore.

          1 Reply
          1. re: swissgirl

            Ok, skip the appetizer, eat the bread, and have another cocktail !

          2. They have a special menu called 'make your own pasta'....
            you can choose your paster and ingrediants. I love to do this, and its very good.
            They will add only the items you choose. Their meat balls are also excellent.
            Good luck,

            1. Thanks Irwin, that's good to know

              1. I actually think this is very good for a chain. I have not eaten much of the menu, but what I've tasted has pleased me. The fried calamari app is good, their caesar salad is good and their linguine alla vongle with white sauce is delicious.

                1. Can't you use the gift certificate for another restaurant owned by the same group? Macaronni Grill reminds me of cookie cutter Italian food and the Stepford Wives. I refuse to go there.

                  1. I was forced to eat at a Macaroni Grill and I was expecting a horror show on the level of Olive Garden. But I was very pleasantly surprised. Yes, there's a reason they haven't opened a branch in New York... and while you might not choose it if you had the choice of places, it's definitely worth going if you have the certificate.

                    I started a thread on the tyranny of gift certificates here:

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Brian S

                      There used to be one in the Palisades Mall in Nyack NY, but it recently closed. I never had a problem with the food or service. Our waiter actually remembered me the second time I went, months after the first time. I was impressed.

                        1. re: sashimi73

                          Because although I truly didn't mean to, my OP sounded more like a diatribe than a request for info. I rewrote it and it's back.


                      1. Honestly, Macaroni Grill is not bad. Take it from someone who has eaten their share of amazing italian food! Like Brian said above, I was expecting a horror show similar to Olive Garden, i was definitely very suprised. Yes, its not the best, but honestly, its worth using the gift card! Their food is decent!

                        1. Macaroni Grill is much better than Olive Garden. Honestly, I think the best thing on the menu is the kids grilled chicken. It comes with spaghetti w/ sauce, steamed broccoli, and an ice cream sundae. I usually get the orzo salad (usually? I've been maybe 3-4 times). I'll go to Macaroni Grill if friends suggest but not Olive Garden.

                          1. The few we've been to have been good. Meatballs are pretty crazy though, huge and mushroom even in them (cut very small). The make your own pasta was pretty good, but again, huge.

                            BTW, Macaroni Grill is owned by the same people as Chili's so you can also use it there, as well as On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, and Maggiano’s Little Italy. You might want to call to confirm, but we've been very happy with our visits to On The Border.

                            1. At my last Macaroni Grill meal I casually mentioned that it would be my pre-marathon running dinner and the server brought out an enormous chocolate cake and ice cream contraption. It was not revolutionary, but delicious.

                              1. I ate at the Macaroni Grill a couple of times and I really enjoyed it. I don't remember what I ate, but I remember I loved the bread and enjoyed the wine (can't go wrong there). I may have had the chicken parmesan.

                                I'd go there again if they were closer to where I live.

                                1. I would take the gift certificate and give it to someone in your family who well loves the macaroni grill. I just cant enjoy fern restaurants.

                                  1. The trouble with this restaurant locally is that I couldn't find hardly any items that were not completely oversalted. The only one I found was the caprese salad. Even the bread had a salt top. I don't care to feel like I've been pickled by my dinner.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: EdwardAdams

                                      I concur! I'm glad someone else mentioned this. I think the food at MG is pretty good -- and I like the bread a lot -- but the pasta entrees can be incredibly salty. Now I have a low tolerance for salt, but this was really noticeable.

                                      1. Worst case,

                                        go have a few drinks, and an appetizer or two. A restaurant has to be really bad if you cant do this.

                                        I put Macaroni Grill maybe a half a rung higher than Olive Garden..

                                        1. I haven't been to one in years, but my story is a strange one. In three visits to the same Macaroni Grill in MI, one in 1991, one in 1997, and one in 1999, I had a large piece of ceramic bowl or plate in my food EVERY SINGLE TIME! Very odd, no?

                                          1. I think the Mac Grill is quite good. The lasagne is very good and there is a trio plate that is also interesting - Lasagna, Chicken Cannelloni and Chicken Parmesan.

                                            1. EEEEEEEEEUUUUUUUUUUUU, maybe a step up from The Olive Garden, MAYBE. I would regift the gift certificate to someone...............

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: LovesFoieGras

                                                Maybe I'm just ignorant (born and raised in NYC, went to college in Boston), but wifey and I enjoy Macaroni Grill - please send me the gift certificate. we will be happy with it.

                                              2. I've never had a bad meal there, although I have never been over the moon about anything they served. It's reliable. The ingredients are fresh. If I had a gift certificate, I'd definitely use it there. I love "real" Italian food, but sometimes a reasonable facsimile works just fine. If you approach from the perspective that every meal doesn't have to be stellar and can sometimes be just satisfactory, Macaroni Grill fits the bill nicely. Not to mention, they have reasonably healthy meals available, which cannot be said for many of the chains.

                                                1. I'd go with the caprese salad suggestion. Other than that,nada, zip, zero. The huge portions (American for 'good food') are what keeps 'em coming back. The 'signature' bread and olive oil? Y-A-W-N.

                                                  1. As was already stated, the sodium level is very high at Macaroni Grill. On the one occasion when I ate at MG, I thought that the food was decent for a chain operation, albeit too salty. However, the same company's "upscale" Italian chain, Maggiano's, was even worse with the oversalting of food on the one occasion when I ate there.

                                                    Maggiano's is not cheap, and for the price that was charged, it would have been nice if they relied on something other than a lot of salt to flavor their food. In addition, the Minestrone was as sweet as a dessert!

                                                    So--I guess that if you are heading for an Italian restaurant of the chain variety, if your choices are Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill, and Maggiano's, the best of the lot in terms of value would probably be MG. However, if Carabba's if available in your area, it is FAR superior to all of the above.

                                                    1. We go there about every two months. We both like their spaghetti and meatballs (when meatballs seem made fresh). Once in a while, the meatballs seem like some frozen Mama Lucia brand. The meat sauce that comes with it is good. There is a good Sicilian bottle of wine they sell (something like Arancio) that is really good and inexpensive.

                                                      Having said that, it is not like Italy, but it is not bad.

                                                      1. OK. Here's what I do when I'm with other people who love chains and pick MG as their destination of choice.
                                                        I get the pasta thing where you build your own dish. I get whole-wheat penne with roasted garlic, pine nuts, and spinach, and I choose the garlic and oil sauce.

                                                        It's definitely got more flavor than anything else on the menu, at least to my tastes. Use the rest for booze or wine.

                                                        1. we went to the Mobile AL. location this evening for our gift card dinner.. CAN YOU SAY.. TOTAL CRAP.. My wife got the chicken parmisean and she said it tasted like anything but chicken.. also said sauce tasted like it came from a cheap can.. I had the Alfredo fettucinni.. It was the most bland tasting crap i have ever eaten.. i told our waiter and he said they had to cook it all that way... the artichoke, spinach, and shrimp appetizer was also bland.. I will never again go there even if it IS on a free gift card. Taste is everything and there was absolutely no taste to the food.....The Tea was Good

                                                          1. Macaroni Grill sucks, as does On the Border (terrible bland crappy "Mexican"). If I could, I would go to chili's instead. You can get a burger, margarita and some chips and be done with it!

                                                            1. Macaroni Grill is not bad for an Italian chain in my mind. I think it is several rungs above Olive Garden. I despise Olive Garden. Macaroni's Chicken Caesar salad and their Shrimp Portofino is pretty good. I also "make my own pasta" occasionally, too, in order to mix it up a bit. Keep in mind it is a chain and for the price, I think you get a decent meal out of it with the appetizer bread that they throw in.

                                                              1. The name says it all: What would you expect from a place that seems to offer grilled macaroni?

                                                                1. Next time when you receive the gift certificate, pass it to me.

                                                                  1. Not a big fan, but my boyfriend loves it for the Penne Rustica. Penne, pancetta, chicken and shrimp in a creamy sauce then baked. Pretty good and the bread is good. Use the rest of the certificate on Bellinis. :)

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                                                                    1. re: Oh Robin

                                                                      First of all what can you expect from a place with such an oxymoronic name? I went there yesterday and ordered one of their special "Tuscan" meals they've been advertising: the Lobster Pasta with lobster sauce, cherry tomatoes, seared lobster tail in shell on the top. At $17.99 I thought to myself: "This had better be good." Was I ever mistaken. First, the lobster was dry. Then I made the mistake of eating the pasta: It tasted like during preparation of this dish the chef's cap came off the bottle producing a torrent of Cayenne pepper, so he simply mixed it in thinking no one would notice. Call the Fire Department!!! Better yet, Call Amnesty International 'cause I was being tortured!!! What a shock: I thought the food of Tuscany was supposed to be creamy. I gave it back to the waiter in favor of plain spaghetti with tomato sauce. I don't think he took it off my bill or applied my 1/2-off coupon cause my eyes bugged out like a cartoon character's when I saw the total. I'm never going back.

                                                                    2. In the past I had decent experiences, but 11 of us went for dinner earlier this week. At first I thought I was the only one who wasn't happy, but so far I have found out that at least 5 of us were less than impressed.

                                                                      I had something called insalata blu. It was less than good, the lettuce was not only not chilled, but it was wilted, and about half of it was brown around the edges. The chicken was dry and flavorless, and the lettuce core was in the middle of my plate. I guess there may have been some blue cheese in there somewhere, i didn't taste it. Not nice. Our waiter was pretty good. Inexperienced but well intentioned and he did manage to keep
                                                                      our glasses full.

                                                                      Since it was a party I didn't want to make a scene, managed to choke down most of it. And the waiter did have the good taste to look a bit shocked at the lettuce core sitting there.

                                                                      I was going to let it go until i found out two others were disappointed. I tried to submit a complaint on-line.. but they have this tricky system where you have to enter the guest check receipt number in order to comment. Since I didn't happen to have the receipt, was no way to complain. I have taken it off my "approved" list.

                                                                      1. One of the best dishes I ever at was the "Vodka Rustica". But as everyone else has indicated, too much salt. Can you tell them to put less salt or the pre-cooked stuff is already salted?

                                                                        1. One of the best days in my life was the day they closed the one in Warwick, Rhode Island.....my fiancee loved the place to my shock and horror.....and when I was in the dog house and it was her turn to pick I was forced, against my will to suffer.....not once did I find something on the menu I liked.

                                                                          Apparently the call a week to the health inspector paid off..... kidding ; )

                                                                          1. I love the part when your server writes his/her name using a crayon on the paper sheet that covers your table. So classy...

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                                                                            1. re: ArrowSmith

                                                                              Well, you are paying like $10 a plate on average, how classy would you like the place to be? Maybe bulk up your wallet and take it where the waiters look down upon your lack of wine/food knowledge and income.