I mentioned on Facebook & Twitter that we were going to Maggiano’s on Thursday but we ended up not going because we were so full after eating unlimited servings of Pinkberry. So for Friday I took Haley back to West End Avenue so we could eat dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy, a restaurant we haven’t visited since our last trip to Atlanta over a year ago.
Maggiano’s Little Italy is a chain of Italian-American casual dining restaurants owned by Brinker International, Inc., the same company that owns the Chili’s brand. When I think of “chain Italian”, I normally think of names such as Olive Garden, Carrabba’s, and Macaroni Grill. A good reason for this is because Maggiano’s only has about 44 locations nationwide. Not too many considering Olive Garden alone has over 700 locations. However I wouldn’t consider Maggiano’s Little Italy in the same category the other three. While I love the other chains, Maggiano’s is on another level.
The first visible difference is that Maggiano’s has a great ambiance. The two large dining rooms are very spacious and filled with leather booths and four-tops covered by traditional red and white checkered table cloths. The bar/dining area featured a talented pianist who sang and played during our entire visit without stopping. The whole restaurant is warmly lit and despite the large crowd and loud noise level, it still felt romantic.
The second aspect that makes Maggiano’s different is the menu. The menu here features your standard food such as appetizers, soups, salads, and main courses but there’s a lot more. In addition, they feature specialty dishes labeled “Chef Favorites”, specials of the day, and specialty pastas. Furthermore, in the event that you have a party of four or more, you can opt for their unique “Family Style” menu. The “Family Style” menu is priced per person and gives the party the opportunity to share all-you-can eat appetizers, salads, pastas, entrees, and dessert.
As much as I would have loved an all-you-can-eat four course dinner, we didn’t qualify for the “Family Style” menu. Instead Haley and I opted for the Mozzarella Marinara appetizer and wanted to try something different for the main course. Instead of traditional pasta dishes, we chose two specialty pastas, the Braised Beef Cannelloni and Chicken & Spinach Manicotti.
We started out with a free loaf of warm bread and olive oil in a saucer. The bread was warm and tasty but being in a place such as Maggiano’s, I would have expected something more than just plain olive oil for dipping. Some herbs mixed in with the oil would have been nice.
The Mozzarella Marinara appetizer arrived as two large breaded mozzarella squares with melted mozzarella slices on top, covered in marinara sauce. I was taken by surprise because I was expecting something along the lines of mozzarella sticks. These large slices of crispy shelled mozzarella slices were perfectly melted with a perfectly seasoned breading. The cheese itself tasted rich and milky. Both Haley and I agreed this was the best breaded mozzarella we have ever had.
Just as we were finishing the mozzarella appetizer, our entrees arrived. My entree consisted of three cannellonis were nicely topped with braised short ribs and sat in a good amount of balsamic cream sauce. Within the cannellonis were more short ribs and an assortment of chopped vegetables. The short ribs were very tender and extremely flavorful. It was very reminiscent of pot roast with a vinegary flavor without the greasiness. I ate every inch of the entree and even sopped up the sauce with the bread.
Haley’s originally wanted fettuccine alfredo but decided to be adventurous and try something new. Since the Chicken & Spinach Manicotti was the only specialty pasta with alfredo sauce, she went for that.
I personally thought the dish was pretty good but Haley thought it was ok. The filling consisted of tiny specks of spinach with finely chopped chicken breast and Asiago cheese. I think she was expecting bigger ingredients, like shredded chicken and larger leaves of spinach. We both agreed however that it entree as a whole was really heavy and rich.
Both Haley and I really liked Maggiano’s Little Italy in Nashville. The atmosphere was very pleasing and the live music was a nice touch. The food was top notch and the entrees were unique to set it apart from the competition. Despite the fact that I didn’t get to experience the unique “Family Style” menu, I’ll be sure to return with more people next time.
|Maggiano’s Little Italy
3106 West End Ave
Nashville, TN 37203-1304
Bill Total: $49.43 For Two