We began our main courses with two pasta dishes.  The first one was from the Chef’s Choice menu of specialty pastas.  The crab and shrimp tropheo was a hand twisted pasta with grape tomatoes and zucchini, with shrimp and crab tossed in a lemon garlic sauce.  This wasn’t my favorite dish of the evening, but heated up the next day, it was really tasty.  I can’t eat shrimp, it’s another one of those foods that gets stuck, but Jim and the kids thought they were perfectly cooked, as opposed to being cooked to a rubbery consistency.  The sauce was very light the first time around, and I thought it could have used more garlic, but after a night in the fridge, it was just perfect heated up, with a nice garlicky flavor.

Our second pasta dish was angel hair pasta and sausage.  To be fair to this dish, we used to go to a restaurant in Cherry Hill called the Italian Bistro.  My all time favorite dish there was shells and sausage.  The sauce was so delicious, the shells the perfect al dente, and the chunks of sausage throughout the dish were spicy and full of taste and textures that made you crave the meal weeks after you ate there.  The angel hair and sausage was going to have to be incredible for me to love it.

I didn’t love it, but just because it paled in comparison to the Italian Bistro dish doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.  I would say at our table, this was the hit of the night.  The kids loved the pasta and the mild sausage, asking for seconds on both.  The tomato sauce was a light sauce, not thick or heavy, and it well suited the delicate pasta.

Yeah, I know the pasta in this photo is spaghetti, but this is the Maggiano’s spaghetti and sausage, and except for the thickness of the pasta, it is the dish we had.

The best dish of the night was the ultimate in comfort food.  The braised beef short ribs, sitting on top of a vegetable couscous, resting in a shallow pool of homey brown gravy were a work of art.  They were so tender, you could break them with your fork, and the gravy could have been eaten in a bowl all by itself.  The vegetable couscous was the perfect accompaniment, with crisp veggies liberally scattered throughout.  They gave you two big pieces of the rib – which we couldn’t finish among the four of us.  It’s so nice when meat is tender enough for a gastric bypass patient to be able to eat it, enjoy it, and not worry about things getting stuck.

There is a local caterer who does a chicken marsala that is literally to die for.  It is perhaps one of my favorite meals of all time.  I’ve ordered it over the years at restaurants, but it never comes close to this caterer’s recipe.

As I mentioned, since surgery, chicken is not always my friend, so when I saw veal marsala on the menu, I opted for that.  The girls were too full to even try it, and Jim barely touched it.  I took a small piece of it, and it does come close to the marsala sauce I remember from that dish at the caterers, but the veal in this version was really chewy.  It was definitely overcooked – regardless of my twisted tummy.  The marsala gravy was very good, and the mushrooms just right, but the veal wasn’t edible for me the first time around, so I know the leftovers won’t be my friend.

No matter how full we were, the downside to the Maggiano’s family style menu (is it a downside?) is that it comes with dessert!  That chapter follows….

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