For those with big appetites and a love of doggie bags
Special to The Seattle Times
Maggiano's Little Italy
Lincoln Square, 10455 N.E. Eighth St., Bellevue; 425-519-6476; www.maggianos.com
Hours: lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; dinner 3-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 3-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays.
Prices: sandwiches $7.95-$10.95 (served until 3 p.m.); appetizers $2.95-$14.95; entrees $9.95-$39.95; five-course family-style dining option $26.50 per person ($14.95 for children 5-12).
Drinks: broad international wine list offers a range of prices.
Parking: free in Lincoln Square garage.
Sound: restrained rowdiness.
Who should go: a safe bet for large parties.
Full bar / all credit cards / no obstacles to access.
At Maggiano's, the food isn't that great, but mamma mia, there sure is a lot of it.
While "less is more" is the mantra of the moment at trendy restaurants where small plates rule, the "more is better" concept drives growing national chains like Maggiano's Little Italy, which opened in Bellevue's Lincoln Square in November.
Supersizing has considerable appeal. Like Claim Jumper, the Cheesecake Factory and Buca di Beppo, Maggiano's offers such gargantuan portions that hours-long waits are the norm at peak dinner hours and patrons leave lugging leftovers.
Maggiano's, a classy Buca di Beppo minus the kitsch, goes one better: It caters to diners' all-you-can-eat fantasies with refillable platters.
Though the vast space accommodates 300 (not including the commodious private rooms), demand is such that if you want a table for Friday or Saturday night, better call a week or even two in advance.
While everything on the huge menu is available à la carte, servers strongly recommend ordering family style. Do so, and your party gets its choice of two appetizers, two salads, two pastas, two entrees and two desserts, all for a fixed price per person ($26.50 for adults, $14.95 for kids 5-12).
Sound like a deal? Wait, it gets better.
Order family style and you get more at no extra charge. That's right, free refills on veal marsala, manicotti, fried calamari, Caesar salad — even desserts! Sound like more than you want? You can limit yourself to just salad, pasta and dessert, but doing that only saves $3 a head.
A party of four or more is likely to spend less ordering family style, but quantity without quality isn't really much of a bargain. Maggiano's is more about the art of the deal than the art of the meal. Just about everything that emerges from the kitchen lacks finesse.
Soggy bruschetta bears a listless tomato-and-herb topping. Fried calamari tastes mushy and, worse, fishy. Focaccia is so loaded with rosemary it defies a second bite, and it doesn't improve when made into Parmesan garlic bread, croutons or crostini.
Salads are swamped in dressing. Entrees and pastas are awash in sauces that quickly form a skin as they cool on the platters. An exception is farfalle with chicken, asparagus, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in a light Parmesan-flavored broth. But mushroom ravioli came submerged in a pool of cheesy béchamel, a sauce similar to the one poured over manicotti — chicken and spinach-filled crepes that, like the ravioli, deliver nice flavors nonetheless.
Under an avalanche of herbed breadcrumbs, a dozen shrimp oreganata struggle to stay afloat in a tide pool of lemony liquid. Most egregious is filet mignon al forno ($27.95/only available à la carte). A blanket of gorgonzola weighs heavily on an otherwise decent piece of meat, mired — with barely recognizable slices of mushrooms and red onion — in a black sludge purported to be "balsamic glaze."
Burnt garlic turns up too often. Bitter brown slices are lavishly draped over a side of whole broccoli crowns. Its acrid flavor overwhelms the dubiously named "garlic shrimp, shells" — seashell pasta in a wan tomato sauce harboring very few shrimp.
Chicken piccata translates as thick, chewy chicken breasts on a bed of mushy sautéed spinach in a puckery lemon sauce overrun by capers. Veal marsala at least offers fork-tender scallops of meat along with tiny button mushrooms, but the sauce bears little hint of the wine that lends the dish its name.
Lasagna and pot roast are available in limited quantities; so limited we twice failed to score the lasagna. The pot roast arrived looking ready for a photo shoot. The brisketlike beef lounging against mashed potatoes in a rosemary and thyme-scented jus was pull-apart tender. But among those pretty vegetables artfully scattered on top were seriously undercooked celery stalks, carrot coins and white beans.
If I found little to love on the plate, I found much to admire about the setting. The efficient staff hustles to the swinging sounds of Sinatra and pals in a comfortable dining room where the honeyed glow of vintage-looking chandeliers falls on checkered red tablecloths and ancestral portraits.
For large groups or families with kids, Maggiano's is a safe bet. The huge menu offers enough variety to appeal to many disparate appetites. One thing's for sure: No one will leave hungry.
Providence Cicero: email@example.com
Veal marsala $22.95
Shrimp oreganata $25.95
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company