Lunch at Maggiano’s: steal/deal of the week, birthday caliber

Here’s what I look for in a birthday lunch: fancy/gourmet, nice decor, festive, and who doesn’t love presents? However, you can keep your server sing-along. . . when I turned 21, I tipped a server $20 not to sing to me. The nearest Maggiano’s to downtown Baltimore is about an hour away in McLean, Viriginia. It’s a chain that manages not to feel like a chain.The decor has warm tones, with black and white, blown-up “family photos”. Music is of the Rat Pack variety and dress during lunch seems to be come as you are. Is it fun to go to? Here’s your strange-but-true answer. It’s got such a family-friendly-at-a-nice-dinner-table vibe that my dad specifically and formally made arrangements to be buried in the cemetery across the street from one of their original locations. He said, “It’ll always be good. People will want to go there for a nosh and then, they can come visit me.” And so, across the street from Maggiano’s, my dad rests forever and ever.

Maggiano’s has a great promo going on: “Marco’s Meal for 2”. You choose any appetizer or flatbread or two side salads, two classic pastas, and one dessert for $39.95. Then — perfect for you birthday girls and boys out there — you get two classic pastas to take home, compliments of the chef! It’s plenty of food for lunch, dinner, midnight snack, etc., and I’m not a dainty eater.

Try an aperitif, to get into the Dolce Vita vibe. G’head, it’ll set you back less than $5. If you can’t be all Dolce Vita on your birthday for Pete’s sake, I don’t know when you can!

The side salads are hearty portions in themselves. I always enjoy their spinach salad, because it seems fresh and well, “healthy” to eat on one’s birthday. I ordered the Bowtie Aglio, with Farfalle pasta, broccolini, fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and grated Parmesan. It was served in a light broth. It’s a different version of a dish I used to eat at Maggiano’s years ago and now make at home: Farfalle in a chicken broth with chicken and shaved Parmesan. I like this new version, too. It’s “light” for lunch, but I realize I’m kidding myself.

For your take-home pasta, you can try something else! At home, relaxing in my pj’s, I dug into their famous and scrumptious lasagna. They combine pork sausage with ground beef, to pack more of a flavor punch.

The warm apple crostada is in a flaky pastry, with caramel sauce drizzle and vanilla bean ice cream. Kinda the cake and ice cream dessert of my childhood birthdays, without the annoying singing.

As for blowing out a candle on my birthday, that’s what Southernness is for.

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