I’ve always been confused by Maggiano’s, the Italian restaurant in North Park. Is it just a chain with a decent menu and good marketing? Or is there more to it than that?
I’m tending to the latter these days. The company has upgraded its menu, with a variety of new items that include baked ziti and sausage and beef braciole, a rolled roast that’s stuffed with ground beef, cheese, vegetables and bread crumbs and then cooked slowly on a red wine sauce. The former was so well received at the press lunch I attended that I barely got any of it, and the latter is just terrific -– beefy and earthy. In fact, they’re not just well-executed; they taste the way they’re supposed to taste.
Maggiano’s trademark is its family-style service, in which the food comes on platters and everyone shares (just like at home). Is this gimmicky? It all depends on your point of view. If you wanted more ziti and sausage, yes. But it does work, which always surprises me, especially since family-style is more expensive than single portion. It’s possible to spend less than $50 a person for dinner (including wine), but you have to work at it.
Interestingly, when I was there a couple of weeks ago at lunch, the restaurant was packed. This was despite some construction and the economy, which has hit the restaurant business pretty hard. Apparently, a lot of other people like family style.