Pros: family-style format, variety, service, atmosphere
Cons: not all of the dishes were good, overpriced unless you do family style
Maggiano's Little Italy is an Italian chain located throughout the country. It is owned by the same company as Romano's Macaroni Grill, which is more well known. Since Maggiano's is not located in New York (where I am from), I only discovered Maggiano's recently on a trip to Florida. This review is on the Boca Raton location.
I was eating with family and we were a group of 3. When we arrived there was a front room with a bar and some tables, a few private rooms on one side, and the main dining room on the other side. The restaurant was not very formal but it was more formal than other Italian chains. There were tablecloths and it was decorated traditionally with high ceilings and dark wood. The restaurant was not too crowded or noisy and it was comfortable overall.
Our server was better than most chain restaurant servers. She seemed to enjoy her job and was attentive and professional throughout the meal. She continually refilled water glasses and always asked if we wanted refills of bread or any of the dishes (since it was unlimited family style).
Regular Menu: Maggiano's offers family style or regular dining. The regular menu offers a lot of variety with traditional Italian dishes and more informal chain-style food. Appetizers include mozzarella sticks, calamari, shrimp, mussels, pizza, spinach and artichoke dip, fried zucchini, stuffed mushrooms, and more. The website does not list specific prices but I believe appetizers were around $8 on average. Portions of these were large enough to share.
Maggiano's also offers daily soup choices along with a few salads such as House, Caesar, Spinach, and Chopped. A full order was about $10 and large enough to share. Half orders were available at a discount and are a good size for one person. Entree salads with meat were available for a few dollars more.
There is a large selection of pastas with vegetables, meats, chicken, or seafood. I won't list them all but you can find it on the menu section of the website, www.maggianos.com. Pastas were around $15 with half orders available. Baked specialties include lasagna, manicotti, ziti, ravioli, and eggplant parmesan.
Other choices include veal (parmesan, piccata, and chop), steak, chicken (parmesan, piccata, marsala, roasted, cacciatore, etc.), and seafood (including shrimp, salmon, crabcakes, and lobster ravioli). Most entrees were about $15-25. Vegetable and potato sides were available.
Family Style Meal: We ordered from this menu. The family style meal offers a choice of 2 appetizers, 2 salads, 2 pastas, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts. All dishes can be refilled for free. The menu said the family style dinner was for tables of 4 and higher but we were 3 and they offered it to us anyway. There is a flat cost per person as well as supplemental charges for certain dishes. The cost was about $25 per person which was a very good deal compared to the regular prices considering the amount of food they gave. I am normally not a fan of family style since I like to pick my own dish, but the way the prices worked out, the restaurant is only worth going to for family style. You will pay more and get much less from the regular menu.
The meal began with a bread basket which had a few different types of bread that were fresh and tasted fine. For appetizers we had bruschetta and stuffed mushrooms. The bruschetta was very good and we had refills. I found the stuffed mushrooms oily and salty but everyone else liked it. For salads, we ordered a Caesar with dressing on the side and a chopped salad. The chopped, which didn't look great, had mostly iceberg and proscuitto. The Caesar, which I had, was crispy and cold - by far the better of the two with all Romaine lettuce. I had oil and vinegar instead of Caesar dressing on my portion.
Next was the pasta course. The gnocchi with vodka sauce had good flavor but could have been hotter. The Chicken Farfalle had asparagus, tomatoes, and "parmesan broth" which seemed like just olive oil and parmesan. The white meat chicken was shredded and mostly good although a few pieces didn't taste that great. I like all of the ingredients individually but the combination wasn't that interesting and I wouldn't rush to get it again.
By this point everyone was full but we were still allowed 2 entrees. One was a salmon and I believe the other was chicken piccata since everything else had a $4 supplement per person. I wasn't hungry enough to try the chicken and I don't like fish, but the presentation of both was good.
For dessert we ordered a chocolate cake and cheesecake. I had the chocolate which was fine but not memorable. I didn't try the cheesecake.
Overall Maggiano's wasn't a bad value. For $25 per person we got a lot of food and with the unlimited refills, we could get more of anything we wanted (which wasn't really necessary considering the amount of food). The quality and taste of the food was fine - it wasn't great but we enjoyed most of the dishes and were definitely full by the end. The server was very good and the atmosphere was pleasant. I will recommend it for family style especially if there aren't any good local Italian restaurants in the area. Still, there's no reason to bother with it if you're ordering a la carte, as the individual prices were relatively high for chain-quality food.