Maggiano's Little Italy
In a word: loud.
More words would be helpful? Well, okay.
Maggiano's is a chain Italian restaurant that offers immense portions in an elegant but un-stuffy atmosphere. It's located in the parking lot of Saks Fifth Avenue, where Dick Clark's used to be (a definite improvement over the former tenant). Maggiano's is immensely popular, so be prepared to hang out in the lounge/bar for a while until your table is ready. We were lucky and managed to score a group of seats around the grand piano (sans pianist). It was the weekend, and a funky jazz band played in the corner. They were fun to listen to, but made conversation impossible.
We didn't wait too long until we were seated. Because Maggiano's gives you the option of having your meals served family style (that is, an immense portion meant to be shared) it's nice for large groups; and that's who was there that night. The big tables filled with celebrating people were festive, but LOUD. Inexplicably loud. Our party of eight was seated at a round table, but I could talk only to the people on either side of me because of the noise. It would be great if they could figure out a way to dampen the decibels just a tad.
The menu is extensive, and offers over a dozen appetizers and entrees to please any palate. You can either order from the "regular" menu, or the family style menu, which is built for sharing.
To start, our table ordered the Bombalina Platter, a smattering of their most popular appetizers, including stuffed mushrooms, breaded and fried zucchini, bruschetta, and spinach artichoke dip. The dip was rich and garlicky, and the zucchini hot and crispy. I love mushrooms in any form, and these stuffed mushrooms were big and juicy and did not disappoint. Everything was just a little too salty for my taste, but it was a great appetizer to share among a table of starving people. Also on the appetizer menu were calamari, pizza, crab cakes and mussels steamed in garlic and white wine.
For dinner, I ordered one of the specials, wild mushroom risotto (mmm, mushrooms). Risotto's tricky, and can be easy to screw up if you don't get the timing right. In this case, the risotto looked like it had been sitting around for a while before it got to me. The dish was overcooked, oversalted and gummy. Dave got the veal and mushroom ravioli, prepared with alfredo sauce. The ravioli was scZx (hey, my dog just typed that with her tongue!). The ravioli filling was deliciously pungent, and the raviolis were nicely al dente. Even though it didn't look like much food when it came out, Dave couldn't even finish half of it -- with the veal and the alfredo sauce, it was incredibly rich. Another friend ordered the ribeye, which was big, juicy and tender, although done beyond the medium rare requested. Also very good was the farm raised tilapia, which was perfectly cooked to show off its delicate flavor. The fish was served with a light, bright lemon sauce, which was a nice complement. Unfortunately, another dish, the gnocchi in a tomato vodka sauce, was mealy and overcooked.
The portions here are so filling that it's a miracle that anyone orders dessert. Out of my sense of journalistic duty, I mad the effort. I had Nonna's pound cake -- a gian slab of toasted cake served with caramelized bananas and hot fudge sauce (I LOVE cooked bananas). Also tasty-looking were the homemade profiteroles and the tiramisu.
The wine list is big, with a nice representation of Italian wines, including Chiantis and Super-Tuscans.
Our server was friendly and professional, and despite the madding crowd, our food (and check) arrived in a timely manner.
Overall, some of dishes here was excellent, but others (namely, the ones that required finesse of technique or timing) fell short of the mark. If you want superior pasta, go to Amalfi. But if you want a fun and festive experience with a lot of choices of generally well prepared food that will please a lot of palates, then this is your place.
You might want to bring earplugs.
3550 East 86th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46240-2424
Carryout Phone: 317-814-0717
Banquet Phone: 317-814-0727
Hours: Mon. - Thurs. 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri. - Sat. 11 AM - 11 PM; Sun. 11 AM - 9 PM EST
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