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Romano’s Macaroni Grill Revisited

September 13, 2012

Back in May, I did a blog post on Romano’s Macaroni Grill and wrote a somewhat underwhelming review of the place.  I had commented on the fact that years ago when I first visited Macaroni Grill, I had felt that it was more of an upscale Italian restaurant.  I remember the location I visited draped heavy dark maroon velvet curtains on the windows, there was an Italian singer that performed, it just felt a lot more upscale.  But, through the years, in an effort to keep up with the economy and people’s changing spending habits, the restaurant was moving towards more wallet-friendly meals and a scaled-back atmosphere.  Though my husband and I weren’t in love with Macaroni Grill, we did find ourselves there from time to time just because there wasn’t much else to choose from, it was quick and easy and located near where we live.  That’s certainly not a resounding or compelling reason to convince someone else to try the restaurant.

However, last weekend, my husband and I decided to give Macaroni Grill another chance.  We had gotten a special offer and decided that the offer was good enough to call us back.  What we found in the new revamped Macaroni Grill really surprised us and excited us.  Now, we’re actually looking forward to our next trip back to Macaroni Grill, which will probably be sooner rather than later.

The first thing we noticed when we arrived at the restaurant is some of the subtle changes that have been made that have given the restaurant a different vibe.  First off, the waiters no longer wear white dress shirts with ties.  They are all wearing blue and white striped shirts, no tie and loosened at the top.  It gives the restaurant, and the wait staff, a more relaxed, laid-back aura.  This fits the impression of being a more family-friendly, budget-conscious restaurant.  The menu itself has also been re-done.  The old favorites still exist, but some new and exciting choices also have found their way on to the menu.  The new combination just seems to work.

My husband and I both started off our night with new, inspired drink choices.  My husband was all ready to order a lemonade until I saw something on the menu that caught my attention and I knew he would love.  He didn’t even have to know what was in it, when I told him what was on the menu, he said he was ordering one of those.  What he ordered was called a Ginger Root Soda.  I’m remiss in the fact that I forgot to take a photo of the drink menu, so I can’t exactly tell you what was in the drink.  It was a blend of several different items, topped with some cream.  Inside the drink was also fresh slices of lemon and lime.  When the drink was blended together the result was incredibly smooth, satisfying and refreshing.  There was a hint of ginger, but nothing too strong.  So, perhaps Ginger Root Soda was an ambitious name.  But whatever was in it, my husband loved it and said he would order it again!

For me, I ordered something called the Fresh Raspberry Lemonade.  However, this lemonade was listed on their special, seasonal drinks menu and not with the rest of the Italian sodas and lemonades.  When I placed my order, our waitress was excited as she told me that was her favorite drink.  It turns out that what I thought would be regular lemonade mixed in with some raspberries was not that at all.  The drink was almost like club soda with a lot of muddled raspberries in it.  I didn’t really taste the lemonade in it, but what I did taste was a drink that was incredibly refreshing.  It tasted delicious, there was tons of raspberries in it and it really hit the spot for me.  And this is coming from someone who doesn’t even like raspberries.  I went a bit out of my comfort zone in ordering this drink, but I was rewarded for it.

As usual, Macaroni Grill is still serving their amazing rosemary bread.  I think that if they got rid of the rosemary bread, there’d be a revolt.  It’s so wonderfully yeasty, and pungent with the aroma and taste of rosemary.  Dip the fresh-baked bread into a mixture of olive oil and balsamic and you have a winner.

Part of the new menu now features a selection of tapas.  I think of tapas as being Spanish and not Italian, but I think that the idea behind it is that tapas feature items on small plates.  It’s a small portion of a snack or an appetizer, served either hot or cold.  Because of the fact that tapas are small plates, you can order a couple of different items and share them, which is how Macaroni Grill was treating their tapas.  Instead of Spanish favorites as tapas ordering, there were classic and modern Italian favorites served on small dishes that are meant to be shared.  So my husband and I each picked out a dish from the available options.

My husband went with the Mac & Cheese Bites with truffle dip.  As soon as he read that on the menu, he was sold.  I think he was thinking back to the Mac & Cheese Bites with truffle oil we had at The Society Cafe in Las Vegas only a few months earlier.  I cautioned him not to compare these tapas to that appetizer as that was an upscale dining experience and this would be different.  Having said that, what we were served was absolutely fantastic.  The mac & cheese bites were crispy and crunchy on the outside and cheesy and tender on the inside.  The flavor of the mac & cheese was fantastic, and the truffle dip just added that extra pop to the dish.  The extra hint of flavor and luxuriousness to it.  At this point, we were already thrilled with the changes we’d seen in the restaurant, and we hadn’t even gotten to our meals yet!

For my tapas selection, I went with bruschetta crostini.  While a simple dish, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every place does bruschetta well.  What we got here was fantastic!  I even said to my husband, “this taste the way bruschetta should taste!”  The bruschetta was perfect.  The tomatoes were ripe and juicy, the kick and spice of fresh garlic cloves was present, and the aroma of fresh basil was infused into the bruschetta.  The bruschetta had the taste of having been made hours ago so that all of the ingredients were allowed to meld together.  You can still see thin slices of fresh garlic mixed into the bruschetta, which was fantastic.  The dish was topped with some fresh shaved parmesan and some fresh basil topping a crispy crostini.  The tapas selections were the perfect start to our meal.

Mediterranean Sea Bass was my husband’s choice for an entrée.  According to the menu it was served with pan-seared, vine-ripened tomatoes, arugula, cannellinni beans and balsamic glaze.  It was also one of their featured menu items.  When the dish was brought to the table it looked spectacular.  Essentially two sea bass filets atop an arugula salad that featured grape tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes and radishes.  My husband said that the dish was delicious.  Sea bass simply grilled and well done.  He’s not a salad person, so he picked a bit at the greens.  But overall, he enjoyed the meal much more than he enjoyed any of his other meals there.

As per usual, I decided to do a “Create Your Own Pasta” meal, but I did change it up a little.  I took farfalle with basil pesto sauce with fresh spinach, broccolini, and roasted garlic and added parmesan crusted chicken.  The meal was delicious and hearty and the portion size healthy.  The broccolini and spinach was fantastic.  The garlic was also fantastic, nicely roasted cloves that had tons of flavor, but there was soooo much garlic.  I’m not complaining because I love garlic, but even I couldn’t eat all of them.  The basil pesto sauce was nice, had good flavor, though I would have preferred a thicker sauce.  And the parmesan crusted chicken was a nice topper to the dish, and there was plenty of it, which was nice.

Finally, when we got to dessert, we had originally said that we would share a dessert.  I already knew that I wanted the tiramisu.  I thought they did a fantastic job with this.  The tiramisu was packed into a bowl, the same bowl I would assume the dessert was made in.  It was the perfect blend of espresso flavor, marscapone cheese, and chocolate.  The dusting of cocoa powder on the top of the dessert was a nice touch.  It was also served alongside 2 ladyfinger cookies.  The dessert wasn’t too sweet, and wasn’t too overpowering, which sometimes it can be if not made correctly.  And the portion size was perfect for dessert.

Although my husband and I were going to share a dessert, when we were brought the dessert menu, my husband changed his mind!  He saw something that caught his eye and he decided to get his own dessert.  It was brought out to the table in a cute, compact and small paper box with the Macaroni Grill logo on it.

What he ordered was the Quatro Cannoli.  The box contained 4 mini cannoli’s filled with the traditional ricotta cheese filling mixed with chocolate chips and spiced with some grand marnier.  Then the ends of the cannoli were sprinkled with spiced candied oranges and pistachios.  My husband fell in love with the dessert.  Right away he mentioned that he liked the citrus flavor to the filling, which must have come from the grand marnier being mixed in with the ricotta cheese.  He also liked the touch of the spiced candied oranges and the pistachios.  He said he would go back to Macaroni Grill again just for the cannolis!  That’s high praise.

On our trip to Macaroni Grill this time, we felt that they had completely revamped their menu and their philosophy.  What they serve now, the manner in which they do it, and the atmosphere of the restaurant was more to mine and my husband’s liking.  We enjoyed the tapas and the food and the desserts tremendously.  It was fun, relaxing, and delicious.  You can bet with the “new” Macaroni Grill, we’ll be back again before long!

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 13, 2012 3:09 pm

    It sounds like you had a great meal. The Macaroni Grill that was in New Hampshire closed over a year ago. I never knew why…you always had to wait for a table.

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