Maggiano’s Little Italy, is a chain of red-sauce American-Italian restaurants that started in Chicago in 1991 with the concept of “re-creating the classic pre-World War II dinner house featuring family size portions”. The chain was launched by the same hospitality company that would go on to create the Wow Bao chain.
The location I hit in Philadelphia had tables covered in red and white checked table clothes and a menu with giant salads, red sauce pasta and lots of Parmesan options. Judging by the calories listed on the menu they reached their mission statement and have managed to squeeze family size portions into each entree order. I really enjoyed their Chopped Salad which comes with tomatoes, blue cheese, avocado and usually crispy Prosciutto, which I skipped. I got the side salad portion which was a large bowl that could have served as lunch by itself. They do serve several local Philadelphia and Pennsylvania beers.
The Dumplings: The Philly location serves Four Cheese Ravioli in Pesto Alfredo Sauce and Mushroom Ravioli al Forno in Alfredo Sauce. Probably as a result of the giant cheese stuffed ravioli covered in the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese based Alfredo sauce, the Four Cheese ravioli weighs in at 1050 calories per serving. It was not clear to me which four cheeses were in the ravioli, but they were all mild-flavored and the main taste was of Parmesan from the Alfredo sauce, with little noticeable pesto flavor. There were some patches of charred cheese sauce and some of the ravioli had charred areas, so I think the plate had been put under a broiler right before it was served, but I don’t think this added anything to the flavor. The dish is served with a slash of red sauce down the middle of the plate which provided some contrasting acid flavor and cut, a little, the heaviness and monotony of the cream-cheese sauce. But still, this was a very rich and heavy dish and was more than I could eat.
The Location: the Maggiano’s Little Italy chain has around 50 locations predominantly on the East Coast. I hit the Philadelphia location which is at 1201 Filbert Street, right next to the Reading Terminal Market. If you are in that neighborhood and craving Italian food, I would consider DiNic’s inside the market, which serves a delicious Italian pork, provolone and broccoli rabe sandwich and has a legitimate history in Philadelphia’s Italian community.