I went to a recent work event that was held at Maggiano’s in the Domain here in Austin. I’m going to start off by saying, generally I would never set food in a place like this. Italian food = pasta = super cheap to make at home. Therefore these ritzy Italian places = instant rip off. A big bag of portabello mushroom ravioli is $5 at HEB. That fact is always in the back of my mind whenever people want to go out to eat Italian. I just don’t see the point. All that aside, this was free food for me, and you know I am all about free stuff. I don’t mind if someone else gets ripped off.
First things first: this place looks like the inside of a fancy hotel. I personally feel all the frou frou crap is unnecessary, and it was setting off all my “rip off” alarms. I had to reassure myself that I was not paying, and therefore could relax, even when surrounded by high ceilings, dark wood, and
boring tasteful artwork.
Because this was a large group, they placed large plates of each dish on the table for us to pass around. For appetizers we had the bruschetta, which was nice, tomato caprese which was good, and the Maggiano’s salad, which was heavy on the raw onions, but otherwise fine. These were my favorite part of the meal.
For entres we had lasagna, which was normal, although pretty acidic, the baked ziti which I didn’t have because it looked like a hot, watery mess, but was told it wasn’t that good, and the parmesan-crusted tilapia, which was really good. The fish was crispy on top, and served on a bed of spinach, with capers and lemon butter. It was tasty, well cooked, if a little bland. I actually had seconds of that.
The desserts came out, and I was pretty excited, but that didn’t last long. The first dessert was Nonna’s toasted pound cake, which doesn’t even sound like something I’d want. It came with carmelized bananas, and I’m already biased against bananas. I had a small bite of this, and it was fine. If I was paying, I wouldn’t order it, but if someone hands it to me, I’m not going to turn it down.
The other one that I saw, and got excited about was the chocolate zuccotto cake. It was put on the table as this massive domed wedge of chocolate upon chocolate. First of all, that is a really awkward way to serve cake at a group event. There is no good way to cut a normal piece off so that you don’t look like a pig in front of all your coworkers. Second of all, I f**king love chocolate, and you guys basically gave me brown cake that looked like chocolate. I guess it is techinically chocolate cake, but it just tasted like liquor and sadness. Again, if someone handed me a free piece, I’d eat it, but I’d rather have more of the fish or tomato caprese.
Here’s the thing, at least in my mind. Chili’s, of all freaking places, makes a damn fine chocolate dessert. So seriously, what’s up? Rich people don’t like chocolate? The cake was completely mediocre in all ways, just moist enough, just sweet enough, and just firm enough to technically be called cake, and to make me say “meh”.
So, final ruling? If someone else is buying, go for it. If you feel like spending $20 per plate at LUNCH, you better think again. There are many fine places you could eat better, healthier food at and still have cash leftover.