Although it has only been open in Austin for two months, Maggiano’s Little Italy at the Domain has already become a popular destination for many Italian food lovers in Austin.
Established in Chicago in 1991, the brand has grown to 44 restaurants nationwide and even has a franchise location in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Despite the many locations, this is not typical chain restaurant food. Maggiano’s prides itself on the majority of its food being made from scratch daily. Choice tenderloin, veal chops, fresh crabmeat, and even Vahlrona chocolate can be found in their large well-run kitchens.
The restaurant itself is beautiful. You are greeted with an expanse of white and black marble tile in the entry way, with elegant dark wood walls and, above it all, an impressive crystal chandelier. The theme is a mixture of club-like mahogany and oil paintings in the banquet rooms and a more relaxed Trattoria feel with red and white checkered table cloths and black and white photos in the main dining rooms.
The professional staff, from Ray and several others at the door to dozens of attentive waiters and waitresses, make the restaurant feel like it has been running smoothly for years.
Managers like Steve Fleming and Executive Sous Chef Shaun Riley make periodic rounds of the tables greeting guests and gathering feedback, and Sommelier Elliott Loviolette is on hand to help with the over 85 wines available on their menu; nearly half of which are available by the glass.
Last night we started dinner with large fresh crab cakes served with a tomato aioli and topped with delicate fried onion strings. A bright Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc was a nice foil with grapefruit notes to compliment the fresh seafood.
Most restaurants do a small range of things well, and though many of Maggiano’s dishes are good, the one I keep coming back to is the steak medallions. These are three pieces of grilled beef tenderloin served with mashed potatoes, fried onion strings, and a Portobello balsamic cream sauce.
At $22, this dish is half the price for tenderloin than in some downtown restaurants. The portions are generous and, each of the several times I have had this, perfectly cooked. With the steak, we had a 2007 J Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon which was again a good value and paired well with the steak.
We finished our meal with a non-traditional take on tiramisu. This was layers of mascarpone, whipped cream and mixed blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Although I like the traditional coffee version, this is a light delicious option that will appeal to many.
In all, I think Maggiano’s is a very good addition to the restaurant choices in Austin.
Though some will not be able to see past the chain restaurant stigma, those that do will be rewarded with good quality, good service and an overall good experience.By Richard Arebalo