The Tastingbuds were honored to attend the grand opening luncheon of Maggiano’s Little Italy on Monday, March 1st at it’s new location in the upscale Domain. While it is new to Austin, many of you may already be acquainted with Maggiano’s – there are more than 40 locations throughout the US.
I grew up in Atlanta, home one of the older Maggiano’s… where everyone knows it as a nice, Italian inspired restaurant that is a safe go-to place to take a date or to celebrate a special occasion.
How does the Austin location stack up, and how do we think Maggiano’s will fare in the already crowded Austin Restaurant scene?
Here’s the lowdown:
At the luncheon, we got to sample about 12 Italian inspired dishes (pictured below in the gallery). Overall, the food was quite solid and flavorful – there was an emphasis on using the freshest ingredients and almost everything was made from scratch. Of the food, the sea bass and tomato caprese were my favorites – I also enjoyed the calamari for the nice, tangy tartar sauce that accompanied it. To me, he desserts were the standout of the meal – the tirimisu, chocolate cake, and apple torte were all excellent.
Maggiano’s isn’t the most authentic Italian place around, but they aren’t really trying to be. They are more of an Italian inspired restaurant and their emphasis is more on dining experience and service. Speaking of service, the head chef was very accommodating on our visit. He personally came to our table and honored special requests for any food allergies and was well prepared to create vegetarian or gluten free versions of dishes on the menu. We were reassured that this was a regular occurrence and special requests are handled readily.
Will Maggiano’s do well in the Domain (where there are already 2 high end Italian restaurants)? We think so. The biggest thing that stood out for us was the fact that Maggiano’s is HUGE (18000 sq ft according to their rep) and the interior is more reminiscent of a nice older hotel than a restaurant. They have a couple of very nice hotel ballroom sized banquet spaces, and I have a feeling Maggiano’s will be a strong player in the Austin large corporate event / wedding market. Since they aren’t necessarily playing in the same space as other Italian restaurants, they should do just fine.
Overall, we were pleased with Maggiano’s. Even though it is a chain restaurant, the food is very good and they do care about fresh ingredients and try to buy local where they can. They also have a strong focus on customer service. While prices are moderate to expensive, you do get what you pay for. If you would like to check out Maggiano’s yourself, it’s across from Dillard’s in the Domain.