Restaurant Review (Sorta): Maggiano’s

Meatballs by Maggiano's.

Last week, Andrew Chalk interviewed Ted Allen. The dynamic duo met at Maggiano’s. Blasphemy! A chain restaurant and not one of Dallas’ finest to parade before the famous man from the Food Network? However, after one meal at Maggiano’s, it sounds like Andrew has been born again. Listen.

Ted Allen, ardent foodie, began his remarks by making the point that he stayed away from multi-site restaurants, but he considered Maggiano’s an exception. I was skeptical but as the meal with Ted progressed, I learned a lot of things about Maggiano’s. Like, they bake their own bread, mozzarella cheese, and ice cream.

Each one is a serious effort. The bread is a chewy farmhouse loaf with a crust that lacerates the mouth, just like a true baguette. Frankly, I wish they sold this retail. The ice cream is actually a rose petal gelato. I might up the intensity of the rose (Samar is the reference example) but the clarity of flavor, the smoothness of the ice cream, were both dead on. The menu for the evening was served by an on-cue brigade and service staff and took less than one hour. Allen was on a tight schedule and had to make his Taste of Addison appearance. Here is what we ate.

Jump for the joy of eating.Appetizers
Local Tomato Bruschetta
Grilled Shrimp and Octopus Crostini
Creamy Polenta and Braised Beef Cheeks
First Course
Veal Meatballs with Homemade mozzarella Cheese (see photo above)
Spinach and Pine Nuts in a Tomato Cream Sauce
Second Course
Bass Salad with Arugula Served with a Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Third Course
Lamb Osso Buco
Scallops Saltimbocca
Fourth Course
Pear and Apple Crostada with White Pepper and Rose Petal Gelato

I especially liked the veal meatballs and the lamb osso buco. The latter was served on a bed of polenta, contrasting the earthiness and robustness of the meat with a sweetness and softness that was redolent of home cooking.
Behind this effort is Executive Chef Johnny Poche and General Manager Roy Davis. This meal was instructive to me about what has changed there recently. Especially that bread.