Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Romano's Macaroni Grill: Wherefore art thou, Carmela?

Romano's Macaroni Grill, like many other chain restaurants, has a particular shtick. In this case it's the bottle of house wine that's brought and left on the table, inviting the diner to pour glasses at will and to pay on an honor system at the end. There's also the giant plastic bottle of olive oil next to the salt and pepper shakers, and the server who pours that oil into a dish and writes her name in crayon on the paper tablecloth upon arrival.
Soon after ordering, "Tuscan bread" arrives to the table, a hot, fat, fluffy loaf with a slick of salt, oil, and dried herbs on the outside and the texture of a commercial hot dog bun inside. The diner and her companions are encouraged to tear off pieces of this bread and to dip them into the aforementioned dish of olive oil, which the server has also seasoned with pepper and salt.
While the diners are chewing on the second loaf, the entrees arrive. Above is "Carmela's Chicken Rigatoni": chicken, mushrooms, and caramelized onions in a Marsala wine sauce over rigatoni pasta. It is about what one might expect from a chain restaurant: everything done correctly and adequately, but without soul.

Despite knowing that chain restaurants are more for consistency than heart, this diner desperately wanted to taste something personal in the pasta she was eating…to see, somehow, that Carmela is a real person cooking behind the stove. But in a place like Macaroni Grill, that wish is nothing but silly.


  1. That bottle of house wine... I've heard of it but I don't think I've ever seen it at the location I've been to in LI. Heh.

  2. Yvo, I can't imagine it being awesome wine. In any way.