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If you absolutely HAD to eat at Maggiano's (The Grove)....

Mr Taster Dec 2, 2008 11:52 AM

It's not a choice.

Maggiano's has been mandated by our National Director as our official Holdiay Party Dinner Location, and the choice has been enthusiastically seconded by one of our staff (who loudly proclaimed "RIGATONI D IS DA BOMB, YO")

What would you order, and what would you avoid?

I'm scared.

Comfort me, 'hounds.

Mr Taster

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  1. x
    xoxohh RE: Mr Taster Dec 2, 2008 12:19 PM

    I feel your pain, Mr. Taster. Three years running, my office holiday party has been at Maggiano's, at the Grove. Due to the economy, and not the food, this years holiday party is has stalled. Typically the eats would consist of passed Hors D’eouvres, which sucked. Followed by the family style Caesar salad, salmon with sauce?, pasta (two ways), Chicken, again with sauce, a veggie and a couple decent desserts. For me, the best way to enjoy this yearly event was the open bar. Yeepie!

    4 Replies
    1. re: xoxohh
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      samtron608 RE: xoxohh Dec 2, 2008 12:22 PM

      wow...ummm...the bread is probably your best/safest bet! haha

      1. re: xoxohh
        Mr Taster RE: xoxohh Dec 2, 2008 12:46 PM

        ....and me not being a big drinker.

        Surely there must be one dish that's less bad than the rest?

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster
          b
          bad nono RE: Mr Taster Dec 2, 2008 12:52 PM

          come on, it's just one meal in your life. Maybe you can sneak out discreetly to the Farmer's Market and get something else? Have a large snack before?

          1. re: bad nono
            Mr Taster RE: bad nono Dec 2, 2008 01:05 PM

            Sure, I could do that... but my question is what the least bad item that Maggiano's serves?

            Mr Taster

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        swsidejim RE: Mr Taster Dec 2, 2008 12:22 PM

        Can you quit? ;-)

        seriously though..Magianno's is a small step above Olive Garden, so dont ecpect too much. good luck

        also..thank god I dont work in a place where the phrase: "....da bomb.. yo".. has ever been uttered.

        2 Replies
        1. re: swsidejim
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          Bullit RE: swsidejim Dec 2, 2008 02:55 PM

          Magianno's is a big step above OG if you know what to order. I have found the appetizers and salads to be quite good. It is not a great Italian restaurant, but is a whole lot better dining experience than many family joints.

          Oh, Go Cubs, Go Cubs. Remember, the southside is the southside. And, remember to use spell check.

          1. re: Bullit
            j
            James Cristinian RE: Bullit Jan 1, 2009 04:35 PM

            So what is good to order at Maggiano's, you failed to specify? I think swsidejim can spell, he just missed the x and c, he didn't proofread, it happens to everyone. I'll give his Sox credit, they beat my Astros. Exactly when was the last time the cubs were in the World Series?

        2. ipsedixit RE: Mr Taster Dec 2, 2008 02:09 PM

          Spaghetti Marinara or the Lasagna.

          Anything more complicated than that and you're asking for trouble.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ipsedixit
            Mr Taster RE: ipsedixit Dec 2, 2008 02:44 PM

            Props to ipse for being the only person (so far) to actually make a constructive menu suggestion!

            Mr Taster

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            ferret RE: Mr Taster Dec 2, 2008 02:35 PM

            Good god, get over it. Every response seems to come from people who eat every meal at 4-star restaurants. Why is it suddenly so chic to pan every chain restaurant?

            My wife's office has had their party at Maggiano's but is going to Wildfire this year (both are chains that originated in Chicago by the Lettuce Entertain You corporation).

            Maggiano's is more than decent. It's far above Olive Garden, which is essentially school cafeteria Italian day food. Give it a fair shake. It may not be a place you ever return to but it certainly won't be an experience that causes you to flee in horror.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ferret
              Mr Taster RE: ferret Dec 2, 2008 02:39 PM

              I gave it a fair shake. We were there last year (same company holiday party) and we ordered the bottomless "family style" deal for our department. The food was really, really bland and mediocre. My goal is to go into it this year armed with some information in order to make a better choice.

              And getting back to the original question..... ferret, your menu suggestions would be....?

              Mr Taster
              (Who regularly eats incredibly delicious $5 plates of food at grubby Chinese restaurants, not at 4 star restaurants)

              1. re: Mr Taster
                f
                ferret RE: Mr Taster Dec 2, 2008 03:07 PM

                Their mushroom ravioli is fine, as is their gnocchi. Fish of the day is also a good bet. I would also have to say that a catering menu at any establishment is going to suffer and basing your opinion on a "family style" lowest-common-denominator meal is not a fair shake. Look, Maggiano's has never been a primary destination for me, it's either the place the party was held or a place we met someone at the mall but it's far from a horrific meal. I responded similarly to a post on the Cheesecake Factory (and I'd do the same for P.F. Chang's) -- I have numerous other places that I go to given the choice, but if I end up at these I just deal with it.

                1. re: ferret
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                  Big Bad Voodoo Lou RE: ferret Dec 2, 2008 04:46 PM

                  The only time I was ever at Maggiano's, I got their gnocchi in vodka sauce and it was perfectly fine. It might be a chain, but it isn't a bad place by any means -- nor are Buca di Beppo, Cheesecake Factory, or P.F. Chang's (all popular favorites that regularly get trashed by Chowsnobs).

              2. re: ferret
                j
                jan RE: ferret Dec 20, 2009 03:37 PM

                LOL!!!!! I love when the food snob/'chain' snobs fly out of the woodwork! Ferret , I agree completely. And I ate at OG today. No comparisn! The kids wanted the soup and salad, but Good God the food sucks!

              3. chelleyd01 RE: Mr Taster Dec 2, 2008 07:39 PM

                For the love of God, people...its a chain. Save the drama fo yo mama.

                We eat at the Beachwood, OH location maybe 2x a year and do family style. I am not a huge fan of pasta in any form, so for me there are a few staples...

                blueberry martini (your out with co-workers you probably dont like..drink up)
                zucchini appetizer...frankly, it is just damn good. I dare someone to say its not.
                chopped salad....again, just a good salad
                gnocci in vodka cream sauce...light gnocci, good sauce.
                chocolate zucotto cake...have a glass of milk, dude

                3 Replies
                1. re: chelleyd01
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                  cheesecake17 RE: chelleyd01 Dec 3, 2008 11:11 AM

                  Blueberry martini- that sounds great. Any idea what's in it? I would love to have one tonight to celebrate taking a chem exam-- passing the exam is another party :)

                  1. re: chelleyd01
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                    ekdd RE: chelleyd01 Dec 5, 2008 04:48 AM

                    The crispy zucchini appetizer is terrific. I remember getting it with tomato sauce to dip although menu lists it with some lemon cream dip. Everything else i have tried there (2 occasions) was blah. loved the french bread pizza at DC location but not as enthused in hackensack.

                    1. re: ekdd
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                      ekdd RE: ekdd Dec 5, 2008 11:42 PM

                      that last line should read MY KIDS loved the french bread pizza at one of the locations in DC but not in NJ; it was nothing special at either location nor were the pastas or chicken dishes; salad was fine

                  2. danhole RE: Mr Taster Dec 3, 2008 01:08 PM

                    I have not eaten there, but a local food blogger here in Houston, that I know and trust, recommends the entree salads and the soups. Someone else mentioned the gnoochi. He was actually embarrassed to be reviewing a chain, but was surprised that he liked those.

                    1. a
                      alliebear RE: Mr Taster Dec 3, 2008 02:46 PM

                      I like Maggiano's best out of Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill and Carrabas. I've never tried Buca de Pepo.

                      I really like one of the salads they make. It might be the chopped salad. Or maybe it's a Cobb. But this would be my choice if I had to order one thing off the menu.

                      I liked the fried zucchini appetizer. For the pasta, the chicken and spinach manicotti is enjoyable enough. Kind of bland, I guess, but comforting.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: alliebear
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                        HastaLaPasta RE: alliebear Dec 5, 2008 08:28 AM

                        Maggiano's is heads and shoulders above Olive Garden, Mac. Grill and Buca. Haven't tried Carrabas before (don't think they have a presence in Los Angeles).

                      2. m
                        meb903 RE: Mr Taster Dec 4, 2008 10:15 AM

                        we like the chopped salad and the spinach salad. the stuffed mushrooms and fried calamari, the mushroom & veal raviolis and the canneloni, the italian pot roast, the rolled chicken (can't remember what it is called) and the profiteroles and apple crostada for dessert. i don't know what everyone's problem is with maggiano's, yes, it is not haute cuisine, but above average for a chain. we live part of the year in the NY tri state area so have access to wonderful restaurants, but you can't go to a 4 star restaurant everytime you want to go out. sometimes, we just want to pig out!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: meb903
                          Mr Taster RE: meb903 Dec 4, 2008 02:49 PM

                          When the slamming of chains comes up, I think people often make an incorrect assumption.

                          I live in Los Angeles, where there is no end to the cheap, delicious food one can get from street taco vendors or Chinese delicacies from grungy shops making outrageously delicious food.

                          Therefore, the debate for me is rarely fancy restaurants vs. chain restaurants. I don't eat at very many restaurants that serve haute cuisine

                          The real issue is bland, boring food versus tasty, interesting food.

                          The more I eat those humble but insanely delicious peasant dishes, the more I feel ripped off when I pay 3x the amount for a plate of something boring.

                          It's a matter of what you get used to eating. Imagine if you lived in Italy and grew up on simple but great Italian cooking. That becomes your benchmark for Italian food. If someone then took you out for a plate of Olive Garden, Maggianos, etc. what would your impression be?

                          People's tastes are not simply a matter of what one likes and what one doesn't like.... but rather what one's frame of reference for those foods is. I grew up in Olive Garden country. In the last 12 years that I've been in LA, I've slowly but steadly shifted my meals towards the more adventurous and more delicious. Now I've come so far that it's hard to look back.... but I do see those people who have never made that journey and are happy with what they're eating, because their frame of reference has never changed.

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster
                            danhole RE: Mr Taster Dec 5, 2008 08:30 AM

                            Mr Taster,

                            You said "People's tastes are not simply a matter of what one likes and what one doesn't like.... but rather what one's frame of reference for those foods is. I grew up in Olive Garden country. In the last 12 years that I've been in LA, I've slowly but steadly shifted my meals towards the more adventurous and more delicious. Now I've come so far that it's hard to look back.... but I do see those people who have never made that journey and are happy with what they're eating, because their frame of reference has never changed."

                            I agree with you, but in this case you are not in control, and you did not choose the restaurant. Most of the replies are trying to give you some reasonable choices. Now if I have a choice between going to Olive garden for $25 pp, or going to one of the best italian restaurants in Houston for $100 pp, I' rather go to Da Marco's, spend the big buck and savor the meal for months to come. But would a company take a staff there? Not in today's economy, and not unless it was a staff of 2. So you just have to make due with what you are given. Hope you can find something to enjoy.

                            Dani

                        2. h
                          HastaLaPasta RE: Mr Taster Dec 5, 2008 08:27 AM

                          Good Lord, the food here is edible, its not horrible, its not bad, its not even mediocre. Its pretty good. If you think that Italian food is disgusting unless the ingredients were flown in from Italy that morning, you're out of luck. Otherwise, unless you talk yourself into hating it before you even get there, you'll do fine.

                          IMHO, one of the better dishes here is the Linguini with Pesto and Chicken.

                          1. Mr Taster RE: Mr Taster Dec 5, 2008 09:14 AM

                            Thank you to everyone who provided me with some options. Sounds like I'll go for the zucchini appetizer and gnocchi in vodka sauce, maybe a salad. I'll report back....

                            Mr Taster

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                              Hackenbush RE: Mr Taster Dec 6, 2008 10:41 PM

                              I have to tell you. I've had some meals in famous, non-chain restaurants that were a lot worse than what I've had at Maggiano's. Their lobster ravioli is pretty good. The braised beef cannelloni is a little rich but tasty. I've especially been impressed with some of their specials.

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                                pie22 RE: Mr Taster Dec 11, 2008 06:10 AM

                                the calamari, chopped chicken salad and the chicken marsala are pretty decent.

                                1. njchowgal RE: Mr Taster Dec 17, 2008 01:39 PM

                                  stay away from the chicken parm. my favorites are the chopped salad, spaghetti marinara, rigatoni D, and lemon cookies. the mussels in white wine are also OK. next time i go, i am going to make my meal the chopped salad (no bacon bits), bread from the table, and lemon cookies. good luck, it's not that bad.

                                  1. k
                                    Kathleen M RE: Mr Taster Dec 18, 2008 09:49 AM

                                    My sister got married at Maggiano's at The Grove two years ago; and last year she, her husband, my brother and I all went back there to have dinner together. I consider myself a discriminating eater, and I have to say that I enjoyed both meals. The wedding meal was served family style, and we had the family style meal again with the four of us. All four of us agreed that our favorite dish was the mushroom ravioli, but really I don't think there was anything we didn't like. Both for the large group and the small one, the service was great. Sure, it wouldn't be a destination for me, but I enjoyed it and would go back with good company.

                                    1. n
                                      normalheightsfoodie RE: Mr Taster Dec 18, 2008 09:55 AM

                                      I am a chowhounder, and I like Maggiano's. I have been to the original in Chicago, before it expanded and to others and have always found it very good. I really like the stuffed clams.

                                      1. Kate is always hungry RE: Mr Taster Dec 24, 2008 10:19 PM

                                        I'm not a fan of corporate chain restaurants but I've eaten at Maggiano's twice. Once was a work related event, the other a few months ago for a banquet. That time, they served salmon which was pleasant and very simple. The other dish I didn't mind was the roast chicken. Would I go there of my own volition? Probably not. Not the worst restaurant food I've ever eaten. You've probably gone already. How was it? What did they serve?

                                        1. g
                                          gfr1111 RE: Mr Taster Dec 27, 2008 12:12 PM

                                          I'm going to Maggiano's tonight. My girl friend loves the holiday decorations and has no problems with the food there. I do. Going to Maggiano's is like going to a non-descript restaurant in an unfamiliar small town while on a business trip. You look at the menu and ask yourself, "What could they mess up least?" (Usually, it is the hamburger.)

                                          My experience is that the Maggiano's pastas are bland, voluminous, and uninteresting--too much pasta, not enough sauce, and the sauce is bland. It is safer to stick with a beef, chicken, or fish dish. It won't be a gourmet delight, but it will be okay.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: gfr1111
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                                            James Cristinian RE: gfr1111 Dec 27, 2008 01:59 PM

                                            A report please. Here's mine. My wife and I went on Friday the 26th, after a gift card from my boss, the choices being, Maggiano's, Macaroni Grill, Chili's, and On the Border. On the Border is awful Tex Mex, way too many choices here in Houston. Chili's, not a fan, and of the two remaining I chose Maggiano's based on a little on line research and a friend I trust. Maggiano's is on Post Oak in the Uptown/ Galleria area, still lit up in all it's Christmas fineness. We got there early at 6PM, it's nearly full and looking nice in holiday decorations. The bread was very good, but things went downhill from there. While we had excellent service throughout, the food was not up to par. The best was an appetizer of mussels in tuscan wine sauce, I liked it but my wife was less of a fan. We had a four cheese ravioli, which had tastes of freezer burn. We also had "jumbo" lump crab cakes, very little crab, none of it lump. We also had(I should have known better to ask) a highly recommended lobster ravioli. Zero taste of lobster, again a taste of freezer burn. Everyone else was having a great time, camera flashes going off everywhere, we just did not like the food. My boss, who was beyond generous but does not understand food, also gave me a gift card with, gulp, the choices of Red Lobster or Olive Garden. I think I'll have my wife give them away at her work. Even with a big discount from the gift card, I think it is a waste to spend money on food that I do not enjoy.

                                            1. re: James Cristinian
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                                              jessicheese RE: James Cristinian Dec 31, 2008 10:36 AM

                                              I believe that the RL/OG gift card can also be used at Capital Grill.

                                          2. f
                                            foodhypnosis RE: Mr Taster Jan 1, 2009 03:32 PM

                                            I thought the Shrimp & Angel Hair al Arrabbiata was pretty tasty.

                                            1. c
                                              cookiezim RE: Mr Taster Jan 15, 2009 06:08 PM

                                              We had our holiday party at the Boston location this year and it was a pleasant surprise. In particular the dessert called something along the lines of Mama's Pound Cake was heaven. We were scraping the platter. When the waitstaff saw us doing that, they brought us another whole platter!!

                                              1. m
                                                medRare28 RE: Mr Taster Jan 18, 2009 04:48 AM

                                                The rigatoni D is actually really good. I usually get that with some calamari as an appetizer. Ive been there a hand full of times and i cant say that ive had a bad meal there....Alcohol could have played a role in this =]~

                                                1. h
                                                  Heyteacher RE: Mr Taster Jan 18, 2009 09:00 PM

                                                  The lemon cookies are tasty.

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                                                    starbucksbrew RE: Mr Taster Jan 21, 2009 04:19 PM

                                                    Don't order the standard red sauce items. Rigatoni D is good, and the braised beef canneloni is out of this world good. Don't miss the spinach salad, great starter.

                                                    1. jme1beachbum RE: Mr Taster Dec 19, 2009 08:57 AM

                                                      I have eaten a few here a few times with friends for random birthdays, celebration type meals, its always been a pleasant experience even if not so memorable "i have to go back there". We also had our company party here last night. One of the people I work with used to be a waitress there. She filled me in on the details. The pasta is shipped in refrigerated and dishes are made on site. Including the sauces, from scratch. Anything not used at the end of the day is disposed of, either to staff or sadly, the dumpster. IMHO my mother makes the best lasagna in the world, because of this I rarely order it at a restaurant. However the meal was preordered and it looked pretty good. I did try it and wound up eating the entire piece I took. Yum, I was impressed, not my moms but tasty not the less. I could tell the lasagna is made with "fresh" not dried pasta. The chicken pasta dish had a very heavy alfredo sauce, I did try it and it was good but a little too heavy for my preference. The salads, esp the spinach version with crispy prosciutto were quite good. Calamari app was tender, a little too much breading but still good. Stuffed mushrooms tender and flavorful. Last of all was supposed to be the cookies but they were out and replaced it with a fantastic mint tiramisu.

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