Oh, Italian food.
Spaghetti was one of the first things I learned to cook, right after the art of making rice in a rice cooker and scrambled eggs. Then came learning to make a larger variety of pastas and then making a pizza from scratch. On top of that, I love tangy foods so I love the tomato that is featured in most Italian dishes. It’s no surprise that I still have a soft spot for Italian and it was pure luck that my work is right in the center of an area home to a number of good restaurants in Houston, with Maggiano’s being one of them – a little taste of Italy, indeed.
The first time, I went with a good friend of mine, but we had gone a little later and with the dimly lit interior, there wasn’t enough natural light for good photos. This time, I went with another friend and we ended up meeting slightly earlier, so it was enough for a few decent photos, but even so, I apologise for the poor quality; I did my best.
We met up at around 4:40pm and we soon realised we had arrived just in time to catch their happy hour – various beers and wines as well as specialty alcoholic drinks were on sale along with their specialty flatbread. All their flatbread contained meat, so my friend and I settled on the Margherita Flatbread as well as a Pomegranate Martini (a bit sweet) and a Cosmopolitan (a smidge too much alcohol), respectively. In addition, we also received a generous amount of fresh bread along with a plate of seasoned olive oil to dip – I love how they leave the olive oil on the table just in case we wanted more. As it was still happy hour, the place was only sprinkled with a table here and there. They clearly want to be seen as an upper class Italian restaurant, which is helped along by their location – just a block from the Galleria – and how all their food is amazingly delicious…
My friend’s Pomegranate Martini was a vibrant red and the rim was sprinkled with sugar; the martini itself was a bit on the sweet side. Mine, on the other hand, was a bit strong, even to my friend’s standards, which I trust since this was my first Cosmo and the primary reason I had chosen it. She noted that Cosmopolitans tend to have a higher cranberry juice content and mine was too light in color. As for the flatbread, it was a good foot in length and the texture and tastes were perfect. The thin crust had just the right crunch and bite to it but it wasn’t too crispy and had a good topping-to-crust ratio. It was a plus that it was pre-cut for our convenience. We fell in love with the flatbread. Then it was time to peruse the menu and order our entree…
The first time I heard about Maggiano’s, I was recommended to order from their Classic Pasta menu because they have an amazing deal: you order one dish for a mere $12.95 and you get another one of your choice to take home. I took advantage of this the first time I was there and I did the same this time as well. Also, none of the specialty pastas are vegetarian so it wasn’t like I had much of a choice in the matter. My favorite is their Eggplant Parmesan – I love how they cut the eggplant thinly and then breaded them individually before layering them on top of each other with beautifully melted cheese in between, topped with a tangy marinara sauce. It’s like a crepe cake-inspired eggplant parmigiana! My friend ordered the Bowtie Aglio, which was also delicious; simple but the flavors melded together flawlessly and it was healthier. I had chosen the Aglio for my take-home option. She always seems to go vegetarian whenever we eat out together so I salute her. 🙂
Usually, my friend and I usually end up making several pit stops as in accordance with the Korean tradition of multiple ‘cha’s – dinner followed by various other places like a coffee shop, a soju bar, and a noraebang. However, as we were already splurging a bit, we forewent the additional cha’s but we went straight for the dessert menu for the final round of indulgence–
We ended up settling on the Dessert Sampler – tiramisu, apple crostata, and the crème brûlée. I had the Papa Tiramisu last time so I knew that one was going to treat my taste buds magnificently; they use rum and real marscarpone cheese in it! The crostata was amazingly cute and reminded me of a hand pie, but with a slightly thicker dough. The contrast between the sugar-crusted ‘dough’ and the warm and gooey apple filling along with the tablespoon of vanilla ice cream on top was divine. I find myself truly curious as to what the Papa Apple Crostata would have been like.. As for the Crème Brûlée, it smelled amazing, reminding me of when I was a waitress and I smelled someone caramelising the sugar. It’s still equally as intoxicating if not more so, as I was the one to be eating it. You could really taste the vanilla bean in the custard filling, not that I was expecting much of anything else. Interestingly enough, it was a little on the thinner side, which made me feel slightly less guilty for eating it – the crème brûlée that my old restaurant offered was so thick I felt my arteries clogging with every bite. My friend thought it tasted good, but she preferred her custard slightly thicker. Now, if only they were bigger!
And so ended yet another amazing adventure of gastronomic proportions at Maggiano’s. Till next time!