We all know those chain Italian joints- the Olive Garden, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Romano’s Macaroni Grill. these places are no more Italian than Pizza Hut if you ask a true Italian (I am not a true Italian but I know a few and I watch them on TV). But that doesn’t mean that the food is bad. They all serve the traditional lasagna, pasta with meat sauce and chicken parmesan dishes. Ordinarily I would never write a blog about a chain restaurant as they are not real unique one-of-a-kind places, however this meal was worth some blogging……….
Chad and I received a gift card to Macaroni Grill for Christmas last year and we finally decided to take a trip and get a “free” meal. We have been to Macaroni Grill before and really- these types of places are pretty much all the same…..or are they?
Macaroni Grill has obviously changed their menu since I was last there a few years ago- I wanted to try just about everything they had- this was no Olive Garden.
First, our server brought us water. Nothing new here- but they serve their water in these bottles- Chad and I had to actually question our server if we had accidently ordered fancy bottle water- but we didn’t- it is just how they serve their fancy shmancy tap water….clever……
We started with the Crispy Artichoke Potato Cakes and the Goat Cheese Peppadew Peppers appetizers from the Italian Tappas menu.
The Artichoke Potato Cakes were very good –they were served alongside a spicy sauce that made them really good. HOWEVER- the Goat Cheese Peppadew Peppers were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G !!!
They were spicy and creamy. The cheese balanced the spicy little peppers and the balsamic glaze on top made all the flavors pop. I have been dreaming about these ever since I had them. I MUST find a recipe for these…….
For our entrees we both ordered combination platters. A great selection of two or three of their pastas, salads, soups and sandwiches as well as being very well priced (2 choices for $8.50 or three choices for $10).
Chad ordered the lentil soup (one of their blackboard soup selections), greens salad and the Capellini Pomodoro pasta. He thought everything was great.
I ordered the combination platter with a Caesar salad, a mushroom and onion pasta and a half Caprese sandwich.
I liked all of it except for the Caprese sandwich- it was a lot of bread and not enough mozzarella or tomatoes.
Overall, I would rate Macaroni Grill way above Olive Garden or Carrabba’s. I wouldn’t even normally blog about a national chain restaurant but those Peppadew Peppers we had for an appetizer were the most amazing little things I have ever eaten.
I loved the open air kitchens – you can watch all the mouth watering food being prepared as you wait for a table (at least the one we went to in Florida had that). We were there in the middle of a weekday afternoon and the place was not packed but on the weekends you can wait a looooooong time for a table so try to visit in the non-peak dining hours.
Sometimes it is just the little touches that make a chain stand out above the others- in this case, the fancy bottles they serve tap water in and the lemon candies (instead of the traditional mints) we grabbed from the host stand on the way out made a difference. But oh…those goat cheese peppers…………
We only used up half of our gift card so we get to go again….oh boy!!
Editors note 9/2/2012: We just went and used the rest of our certificate tonight. If you find yourself in Winter Garden, Florida- visit the Macaroni Grill at Fowler’s Grove and be sure to ask for Yolanda – we had great food and great service yet again!!
Romano’s Macaroni Grill has over 198 locations throughout the U.S. and 20 additional locations internationally – to find the one nearest you visit http://www.macaronigrill.com/ and CHOW!!