Kunkel’s Seafood and Steakhouse Review

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Seafood and steak

I hate to post bad reviews.  We had not eaten at Kunkel’s Seafood and Steakhouse in several years because we had a rather lackluster visit our first time.  When an impromptu visit from our oldest daughter and her fiance had us looking for something different for dinner, we decided to give the place a second try.  Our second visit to Kunkel’s Seafood and Steakhouse was more unsuccessful than the first one, and for a meal as pricey as this one was, we felt a written review was in order.

Seafood and steak

Kunkel’s Restaurant

To begin with, the restaurant bills itself as having a fresh raw bar, and Jim and the girls were all mouth-watering geared up for some fresh oysters.  We were seated, and after a few minutes (a bit longer than I think was appropriate), a waitress came over to take drink orders.  She disappeared again, and a few minutes later, returned to go over specials.  I’ll get to that in a moment.  Jim asked, as instructed by the menu, which fresh oysters they had in today so he could place his raw bar order, and it wasn’t until this moment when she “remembered” to tell us that they had no raw bar today.  The delivery truck never showed up.  Does that ever happen?  It leaves one wondering if there is an outstanding bill or a bad relationship with a supplier that would cause a delivery to just not show up.

Disappointment was obvious, and after dinner, Jim said he really would have walked out at that point if he thought the rest of us would be okay with it.  I kind of wish now he had walked out.

So, let’s get back to the specials.  This is a steak and seafood restaurant.  Tonight’s special was cheese ravioli with spicy (not really) sausage sauce.  Interesting.  Are they also an Italian restaurant?

We place orders for appetizers that we think we can share around the table.  We chose Fiery Thai Calamari, Stuffed Meatballs, and Bruschetta.

We’ll start with the Fiery Thai Calamari.  Described in the menu as “Crispy fried calamari tossed in a spicy-sweet orange chili sauce with fresh scallion also available in our Classic Fried Calamari style with marinara dipping sauce”, we opted for the spicy-sweet orange chili sauce instead of the classic fried calamari with marinara, which, after all, is not Fiery Thai Calamari.  The calamari were just slightly chewy, with a pleasant sweet flavor, but there was nothing fiery or spicy to balance the sweet.  This worked well for me, as I don’t really enjoy very spicy food, but if you are advertising a dish as “fiery”, there should maybe be a little heat attached?

Next up were the stuffed meatballs.  This is where we start to notice the “false advertising”.  No raw bar, no fiery in the fiery Thai calamari, and no stuffing in the meatballs.  The plate contained two large-ish meatballs, already topped with marinara sauce, separated in the middle by a shallow (very shallow) pool of pesto.  I’m not sure what purpose the pesto served, as it was barely detectable when added to the already marinara sauce covered meatballs.  But the biggest disappointment was the lack of smoked mozzarella.  Had it melted into the meatball as it was cooked, surely it would have imparted a smokey flavor to the meat.  Instead, the meat was a bit on the bland side, although the marinara sauce was tasty.

Kunkel's allegedly stuffed meatball

“Stuffed” Meatball

Kunkel's Stuffed Meatballs

Stuffed Meatballs

 

Next up, bruschetta.  Whenever I’ve had or made bruschetta, it has been on toasted bread.  That seems to be a key ingredient to actually making bruschetta, and it prevents the ingredients that you pile on top of the bread from making the bread too soggy to be picked up.

A poor attempt

Kunkel’s Version of Traditional Bruschetta

To begin with, this bread was not toasted.  Even though the description in the Kunkel’s menu says this:  Grilled sliced French bread toast points topped with diced tomatoes, onions, and basil and olive oil. – what we actually got was just sliced, fresh bread.  It was hard to pick it up to eat it, as the ingredients were too much for the untoasted bread to handle, and the bottom of the bread was a bit on the soggy side, which made it unpleasant to eat.  To make matters worse, the whole thing was drenched in balsamic glaze, which gave everything on top of the bruschetta an overwhelmingly vinegar taste.  I was glad not to have eaten this first, because I would have been unable to taste any of the other appetizer offerings (but maybe that would have been a good thing).

We waited no less than 20 minutes from the time our appetizers were finished until our salads and soups were delivered.  Every entree here comes with a house salad, which takes some of the sting out of the steep prices, but the salad is uninspired on it’s best day.  You can substitute the house salad for any of the other more interesting salads on the menu, but our waitress told us there was an upcharge of $5 to do so.  Jim and Brighid opted to choose a Caesar salad, and while it was clearly a better choice than the regular house salad, had they actually upcharged me $5, I’d be pissed. I don’t know if the waitress simply forgot or if she felt guilty charging $5 more for the Caesar salad.  They don’t call it Caesar salad at Kunkel’s, it’s a Sante Fe Romaine salad – basically a Caesar salad with a sliver or two of red pepper, a couple of olives, and a Chipotle Caesar dressing.  There wasn’t anything wrong with the Caesar, and the dressing was quite tasty, but had they charged me $5 more for essentially the same plate of lettuce with fewer toppings, I’d really have had a fit.

I don’t recall how long it took for entrees to come, but I do know that in the amount of time it did take between salad and entree, Eilis had long finished her glass of water and was well into my glass of iced tea.  For a virtually empty restaurant, there is really no excuse for glasses to remain empty so long.

The entrees are beautifully plated, and would easily impress the Chopped judges on their most critical day.  It’s there, though, that stuff started to go south.

Granuaile had the crab cakes.

Crab Cake Dinner

Kunkel’s Crab Cakes

Now, I have to say, we are sort of crab cake snobs.  My Aunt Annie, who for many years owned and cooked for a restaurant in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, made the best crab cakes known to human kind.  As soon as I see red pepper in a crab cake, I know that the person who made them was trying to cut corners and save money by throwing in some kind of filler.  To be fair, the crab cakes weren’t awful.  They were, however, just blah.  There was too much other stuff besides crab in the crab cake, and there again is the overwhelming balsamic glaze.  The sauce underneath the crab cakes was really tasty, and it was a shame to ruin in with the vinegary drizzle.  The crab cakes came with a side of asparagus, which you can see was more of a middle of asparagus, featuring three thin stalks of perfectly cooked, blandly seasoned vegetable.

I ordered the beef short rib, promised to be served over a bed of mashed potatoes, and finished with a bordelaise sauce and frizzled onion.

short ribs

Kunkel’s Beef Short Rib dinner

I saw the mashed potatoes, but the sauce was more of a soup, and the potatoes were already trying to stay afloat with the abundance of frizzled onion holding them down.  The beef itself tasted fine, but was overcooked and chewy.  The frizzled onion was too much to be considered a garnish, but added an off putting texture when combined with the already challenging to eat beef.  I ended up switching my entree with Jim out of fear that the beef and my gastrically altered stomach would not get along.

Jim ordered (and I ate) the ravioli special.  These were a cheese ravioli with what was billed as a spicy Italian sausage sauce.  The ravioli were light with a creamy cheese filling and a really good – although not spicy in any way – marinara sauce.  There were a few discs of spicy Italian sausage in the dish that were too spicy for me to really enjoy, but it begs the question that if the sausage had been simmered with the sauce, why did it not impart some of the spicy flavor to the sauce?  Was it just tossed on top as an afterthought?

dinner

Kunkel’s Ravioli of the day – cheese with spicy sausage sauce

Here was the main problem with the cheese ravioli.  It was $30.  No, that’s not a typo – $30.  I browsed several other Italian restaurant menus in my area – not diner menus, by the way, real Mom and Pop Italian restaurants.  This is what I found:

Lobster ravioli in blush sauce topped with shrimp – $21

Cheese Ravioli – $14.99 (add a side order of sausage for $7.50 – total for that meal about $22)

Ravioli in plum tomato sauce – $11.95 (add a side order of sausage for $4 – total for that meal about $16)

As you can see, based on other Italian restaurants in our area, the price for this ravioli dish was WAY out of line.  While this was easily the best dish of the night, there’s no way this dish should have been $30.

Pasta dinner with mussels

Kunkel’s Mussels and Pasta in white sauce

Eilis’ dish of Pasta and Mussels was deemed really good.  The pasta looked and tasted fresh, and the mussels were quite good in the butter and garlic sauce.  The pasta could have used a bit more sauce, and then a nice roll to sop it up with, but the meal was good and probably more in line with the price of similar dishes at other restaurants ($23.00).  Two questions, though, if there was no delivery of fresh seafood yesterday, are the mussels frozen from a previous delivery?  And why is this plate of seafood and pasta $7 cheaper than cheese ravioli?

Brighid and Brent enjoyed the filet mignon and the apricot butter salmon.  Brighid’s steak was under seasoned, and after the rest of the evening’s disappointments, she had begun to mentally eye up her stop for a Sonic Blast on the way home.  She ate a few bites and packed the rest for Jim to eat later.  Brent’s salmon was resting in a warm sea of apricot butter that was sweet and salty and a great combination to accompany the dense fish.  It was also one of the few highlights of the night.

Bogged down by disappointment, we ended the evening without even looking at the dessert options, however, it was a long wait from the time the busboy boxed up our leftovers to the time where we were actually offered dessert.

Then came the tacky move of the evening.  Our waitress came over with our check, and announced at the table that if we would be paying cash, we had to let her know right this very minute now, because cash paying customers were given a 3% discount on their food purchases.  Really?  This again brought to mind concerns about the financial stability of what is supposed to be somewhat of a casual elegant restaurant.

We won’t be back to Kunkel’s at any time in the near future, and while the restaurant itself is just beautiful, you can’t tease me with decor and not back it up with food.

 

50s Prime Time Cafe – Restaurant Review

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Day 4 6

Back in the day when Brighid was little, 50s Prime Time Cafe was the place to go for really delicious, homestyle comfort foods.  But more than that, it was the place to go for an experience like no other – where you became part of the “family” dining at Mom’s table – complete with Mom yelling at you and making you stand in the corner if you talked back.  Or didn’t eat your veggies.  Or you put your elbows on the table.  And if you did manage to make it through your vegetables, Mom – or a cousin – would hand you a ViewMaster dessert menu, taking you right back to your childhood (or your mother’s childhood) while you perused options for your sweet reward for suffering through the green beans.

On our recent visit, we were pleased to see the menu with which we have become so familiar.  Mom’s pot roast – a table favorite – it perfectly tender, shredded into delicious gravy covered bites, and served with garlic mashed potatoes and veggies you totally don’t mind eating, because they are so perfectly cooked and flavorful.

Cousin Ann’s meatloaf, although flavorful and delicious, was a bit on the dry side.  Nothing a few squirts of ketchup didn’t cure, but the ketchup then overpowered the yummy glaze.  Served on a bed of the garlic mashed potatoes, it’s about as close to Mom made as you’ll find.

Prime Time Meatloaf

Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken won tremendous praise at our table.  Golden and crisp, the chicken had the perfect crunch without an abundance of grease (take that, Colonel Sanders).  There were those garlic mashed potatoes again, and sweet corn, adding a comfort-ful side dish to an already homey plate.

Prime Time Fried ChickenThe one health conscious person at our table ordered the chicken Caesar salad, and claimed it delicious.  And really, in these days of diets and fad food trends, is there anything more classic than the chicken Caesar?  It has become almost as comforting as pot roast and meatloaf.

What our experience lacked was the fun factor.  I’ve heard before that they no longer use the ViewMasters for dessert due to health concerns, with the toys being so close to so many eyes.  I guess I get that.  But even the interaction with the servers has been greatly curtailed over the years.  Our waiter, Cousin Richard, was nothing more than a sarcastic, bitter, hating his job type of guy who couldn’t wait to be done taking our order and moving on.  And while Richard was one of the worst we’ve had in a while, there is no more real home atmosphere, where mom is yelling at you for something and someone is getting in trouble.  I was told by one server that people didn’t like being told to stand in a corner, so they scaled back that type of interaction, but it was a huge part of the fun of the experience.

Would I recommend this restaurant?  Highly.  It’s still great fun to see and be transported to the 1950s.  The food is still very good overall.  The peanut butter and jelly milkshake is still one of the best milkshakes – anywhere.  But I would tell folks who were there a long time ago to curb their expectations.  What used to be good food and great fun is now great food and good fun.  It’s still a must do for my family.

Sakura celebration lunch – WLS review

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Jim wanted to celebrate my A in College Algebra aka pre-calculus aka Why am I in this class again?, so instead of heading home to our usual lunch of whatever I can find that requires the least amount of my energy and time in preparation, he wanted to do something special!

We ended up grabbing a quick lunch from our local favorite Japanese restaurant. Okay, so we only HAVE 2 Japanese restaurants in our area.  One of them is Sagami at the Collingswood Circle, which we drove past all our lives and never knew it was a Japanese restaurant until we were in our late 30’s; and the other is Sakura, which has an awesome soup called Seafood Tofu Soup for Two.

The soup is a delicate broth filled with chunky pieces of vegetables (mostly carrots, celery, onions and whole mushrooms), and then given a generous helping of firm tofu along with shrimp, scallops, and crab leg cut into strips like noodles.  This was one of the first meals out that I ate following gastric bypass surgery, and it continues to be a favorite.  There are days when I have to skip the veggies, because after a soup filled with protein, the chunky vegetables can be a little too much to enjoy.

To go with the soup, Jim picked out two of the sushi specials.  They feature several different sushi rolls each month to encourage diners to try new things.  They discount them by 50%, and we’ve discovered some delicious sushi this way that we might have otherwise overlooked.  For lunch, we picked up a Paradise roll, which is shrimp tempura, wrapped with banana tempura, lobster salad, and topped with tofu and flavored mayonnaise.  Okay, I KNOW they don’t eat this way in Japan, but I am so glad they adapt these things for an American palate.  This was flavorful on many levels, with crunchy, sweet, savory, and a bit of spice in the mayo.  They are certainly flavors I would never think of putting together, but oh my gosh, they were delicious.

Sakura Japanese Restaurant October sushi specials

The other roll we decided to sample was the Pink Lady.  This was chicken tempura, boiled shrimp, and cream cheese, topped with a spicy mayonnaise.  This was a much smaller bite, and while it should have been easier to eat as a result, I have such a hard time with chicken.  The flavors, again, were amazing and multi-layered, but between the two of them, even though the other roll had more rice (which is a no-no for me), the chicken in this one did me in.

Sushi is a hit or miss thing for gastric bypass patients, and while I find I am able to enjoy a few more bites than I once did, I still have to limit myself.  The rice kills me after about three bites, and I’m left with the lovely taste in my mouth and a horrible pain in my stomach.

Sakura is a great place to stop for lunch (they have fabulous Bento boxes), sushi, or a date night dinner.  They have hibachi grills in addition to the sushi bar and the regular tables, so there is something for everyone at this great little spot.

Take out items are available.

Sakura Japanese Restaurant
910 South Black Horse Pike
Blackwood, New Jersey 08012
(856) 374-3088

Wine and Dine Weekend – Breakfast at Wolfgang Puck Express

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I have to thank my dear friend and Disney Mom Joanne for turning me on to Wolfgang Puck Express.  I have to admit that for all the years we’ve been visiting Walt Disney World, we overlooked this restaurant every time.  We had eaten once at the regular Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Downtown Disney West Side, and it wasn’t so fabulous that we wanted to go back.  So we haven’t.  Which is probably why we never discovered this hidden gem at Downtown Disney.

OMG – two words.  Breakfast pizza.  Yes, pizza for breakfast – and not the way you ate it when you were in college – cold, right out of the box your roommate bought at lunch time the day before, praying e-coli couldn’t have set in over the course of the 16 hours it had been sitting on your dorm room floor.  This is fresh, piping hot, and delicious.

Wolfgang Pucks Downtown Disney breakfast

The thin, crispy crust is topped with scrambled eggs, apple wood smoked bacon, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, plum tomatoes, and then drizzled with ranch dressing.  Oh come on – you haven’t tried it yet!  It makes perfect sense once you’ve had it in your mouth.  This is so delicious, I’d eat it for any of the three (or four, or five) meals a day that I eat.  And as far as gastric bypass patients?  I have no trouble with this at all – and I often do have trouble with scrambled eggs.  I’ve had this pizza in two visits, and both times, the eggs were cooked perfectly, not dried out and prone to sticking in my pouch.

Next on our table was the crispy cornflake French Toast.  They give you a knife and fork to eat this with, but we ended up just picking it up with our hands and dipping it into the syrup.  This is not your Grandmom’s French toast.  This is a sliced bagel, dipped in egg, then liberally treated to a dusting of cinnamon sugar and rolled in cornflakes.  The meal is dense and delicious, but for us gastrically altered folks – not friendly.  If you can handle the sugars and the carbs in this meal without dumping, that bagel will sit like a ton of bricks in your stomach.  Have your husband order it and take a bite – that’s what I did!

Wolfgang Pucks Downtown Disney breakfast

Rounding out our breakfast selections was the breakfast pocket.  First of all, we had way too much food for our family of five, and we ended up leaving that piece of french toast you see above you and half of the breakfast pizza.  But, I thought it was better to get one more thing, and the pocket appealed to Eilis, so we ordered it.  This is essentially the breakfast pizza, except with different toppings and folded over, like a panzarotti.  In addition to the eggs, bacon, and cheese, the pocket also includes ham, mushrooms, peppers and onions.  It’s huge.  Be prepared to share!

It cost right around $40 for the five of us for breakfast, and that included two bottled orange juices and a bottle of water.  This is probably about $25 more than we would have spent if we had run out to McDonald’s to grab breakfast from their dollar menu, but we could have easily eliminated the $9 for the pocket and everyone would have been satisfied with the amount of food they had eaten.  So for just over $30, this would have been a fabulous breakfast.  For $40, it was still pretty darn good.

Via Napoli – A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review

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On our first night in Orlando, some of the Moms from the Walt Disney World Moms Panel had decided to do a quick meet up at Via Napoli.  It was all 2009 Moms, and we figured with all the events of the weekend that were planned, it would be one of the few times we’d get a chance to catch up with each other.

As you know if you’ve ever made reservations for a large party at Walt Disney World, they do not guarantee you will be seated at the same table.  In our case, they gave us 4 tables, but they separated the tables so that there were 2 tables pushed together, a space, then another 2 tables pushed together.  This made for 2 very distinct parties at dinner, even though we were all one group.  It was virtually impossible for those of us at one table to co-mingle with those people seated at the other table, even though they were right next to each other.

We all placed our orders at the same time – some people ordered pasta dishes, some ordered pizzas to share, and salads and appetizers were ordered.  Then food began coming out in all sorts of weird sequence.  We got our fried calamari appetizer at the same time that the folks at the other table got their salad.  We also ordered salad, but our salad was delivered to the other table, and because it was assumed it came with the meal, the other table enjoyed the salad.  Eventually, a salad was brought to our table, at the same time that some (but not all) of the pasta dishes began to arrive.  Finally, when everyone was finished eating – except for those of us that ordered pizza – we started asking about the pizza.  Eventually, it was brought to the table, but by then, the meal had already gone into it’s second hour, and the part of our party that had already eaten was ready to head out to get some sleep for their big race the next morning.  This was definitely not a meal conducive to enjoyable conversation, nor did it allow us all to eat together.

Okay, so how’s the food?

The fried calamari, as it was on my first visit, is delicious.  You’ll know if you’ve had gastric bypass surgery that some calamari can be overcooked to the point that you can’t swallow it, but this is not the case here.  The calamari is delicately breaded, fried to a crisp outside, not chewy inside perfection, and served with a very good (not great, but very good) marinara sauce in which you can dip these delicious morsels.

The salad is good, not overly dressed, but again, nothing special.  If you want the family style salad, it adds $4 per person to your bill, but it does make a nice complement to the pizza.

And the pizza!  That’s what you’ll come here for, after all!  You will find other pasta dishes, but if you want a true taste of Italy, it is here, in the pizza.

The wood fired pizza ovens are a sight to behold, and you might want to run in even if you don’t have a reservation just to view them – they are wonderful!  But they pale in comparison to the expertly prepared, authentically Italian pizza that comes from them.

The pizza margherita, which we ordered specifically for the kids, has a thin crust, not chewy and dense, so it makes it a very easy crust for many gastric bypass patients to enjoy.  The sauce is so fresh, it absolutely pops – you can smell the tomatoes almost as if you were chopping them at home yourself.  The mozzarella cheese isn’t shredded, so each bite offers a nice mouthful of fresh mozzarella.  And the added bonus of fresh basil just makes this one of the best pizzas I’ve had since I was in Naples (Italy, not Florida).  To paraphrase Paula Deen, this pizza is so good, it will make you want to slap your Mama Mia!

The other pizza we tried was the Pizza Piccante.  I worried a little about this pizza, because sausage can be a tough item to get into a gastrically altered tummy, but this was perfect!  It wasn’t terribly fatty, and I found no hard, gristly pieces in the sausage.  It was spicy, but not too spicy, and in small enough chunks that it didn’t overpower the freshness of the other ingredients.  The broccoli rabe on top of the pizza was well cooked, although I think I would have liked to see a little less of the bitter green on top of the pizza.  It was a delicious addition, but the bottoms of the stalks are a bit denser and were not as tender to eat, so more than a bite of them on the pizza made it hard for me to enjoy.  I’d recommend the pizza whole heartedly, but for the gastric bypass patient, I’d ask them to go light on the broccoli rabe.

Thank you, Zannaland for this photo, and check out her review at http://zannaland.com/via-napoli-revisted-more-than-just-pizza/

Overall, this is an excellent dining option if you are going just for the food.  There is plenty for you to eat whether or not you’ve had surgery, and everything is fresh and delicious.

However, I just can’t see my family going here on many Walt Disney World vacations.  It eats up way too much time during a theme park day, and having our meal with friends end up so scattered and disjointed didn’t make for an enjoyable evening.

This place gets an A+ for food, but definitely takes a hit on service with a D.

Don’t forget – check out my friend Suzannah’s blog on Via Napoli to get another opinion!

http://zannaland.com/via-napoli-revisted-more-than-just-pizza/

Maggiano’s Little Italy – Review Wrap Up

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Overall, the family dining menu at Maggiano’s Little Italy turned out to be a great value and a delicious meal.  We ended up with enough left over items to put two additional meals together, and with tax and tip, our bill was about $140.  Three restaurant meals for a family of four for $140 is big bank for our dining buck.  We certainly could have pigged out more on salad and bread, and they more than encourage you to order refills, so we could have probably eaten for several more meals if we had wanted to take advantage.

The food is not the best Italian food you’ll find anywhere, but it’s good Italian food.  The menu combines enough familiar standbys (lasagna and ravioli) with chef’s specialty items to keep it interesting to come back time and again.

We were the ONLY people in the restaurant when we arrived for our early dinner at 4:30, but the tables around us had begun to fill up by the time we left at just over an hour later.

The Cherry Hill Mall location is very convenient, not only for Mall shoppers, but for people going home from work to stop in for a bite to eat.  It’s also a central and well known meeting place to have family dinners or reunions.  They do have separate banquet rooms.

From a gastric bypass standpoint, you’re going to have to rely on your pouch to determine what is safe her.  I can only eat a minimum amount of pasta, but fortunately, you’ll find a variety of non-pasta dishes, including my usually pouch safe lobster tails, salmon, and crab cakes.  There are also several items on the appetizer menu that I could have easily turned into my main meal had we opted out of the family style menu.

They only serve the family style menu to parties of four or more, and again, from a gastric bypass standpoint, this is a good thing.  You’ll have plenty of options to share with your friends.  I love how they give you four entree choices with two of the family style menu options, because it really does allow for everyone to get what they love and to share it with the table.  This is perfect for post-ops.

Definitely try this restaurant out – preferably before the busy holiday season, when you won’t be able to get a table!

Maggiano’s Little Italy – Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review – Dessert!

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We are so full that even my sweet teeth little girls roll their eyes when the waiter comes over to ask if we want dessert.  Then the little one pipes up with “unless there’s chocolate ice cream!”

The dessert menu features a few Italian favorites, like tiramisu and spumoni; Italian spins on chocolate cake and pound cake; and the more traditional NY cheesecake.  Many of their options come with ice cream on the side, but there is absolutely not way this family is going to be able to eat two desserts unless they are bringing a crane to get us to our feet and roll us out the door.

The girls push for the chocolate zuccoto cake, which is a chocolate layer cake filled with chocolate mousse flavored with Sambuca.  Since this is one dish that doesn’t come with ice cream, I ask our waiter if he can just go ahead and box our cake to go.

We have the cake the next day, with our left over dinner, and I have to say, as light and fluffy as you think it will be because of the layers of mousse, it is a thick, dense cake with a thick chocolate frosting, and it is way too heavy for me to have more than a few bites.  Gastric bypass aside, this is a heavy duty cake, but when you factor in the gastric bypass, this could be dumping on a plate.  Take a bite to just satisfy your head hunger for the cake, but know that you aren’t missing anything by not being able to eat more than a taste.

Our second choice, which seems the least heavy of the bunch, is the spumoni.  The Maggiano’s version of this Italian ice cream combination features chocolate, pistachio, and cherry ice cream that is cold, creamy, and delicious.  There are chocolate pieces and dark sweet cherry pieces, although I would like to have seen a few more pistachios scattered in there.  Jim, who says he isn’t going to have any dessert, actually jumps at the chance when the waiter offers to bring another bowl.  Remember, this is all you want to eat.  Next time, we might start with the spumoni.

I know a lot of post-ops struggle with ice cream, as many of us become lactose intolerant.  I do fine with it, and I haven’t dumped on ice cream yet.  This was a much better choice for me than the cake.

Wrap up coming up next!

Maggiano’s Little Italy – Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review – Pasta and Entrees

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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….

Maggiano’s Little Italy – A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review – Salads

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There are two types of gastric bypass patients – those that can eat salad, and those that can’t.  Of those of us that can eat salad, we can either eat whatever kind of salad we want, or we stick with chopped versions of salad – like the traditional Cobb salad.

If it’s just me, I always prefer the chopped salad.  It’s easier to eat, they usually throw in all sorts of bonus proteins like eggs, avocado, and bacon.  But the waiter come over with the incredibly glowing recommendation for the Italian Tossed Salad.  He said, “It tastes just like the Olive Garden salad!”  As we all know, people only ever eat at the Olive Garden for the salad and bread sticks, so I ordered the Italian tossed salad, and the Caesar, which Eilis wanted.

What do you know?  The Maggiano’s tossed Italian salad tasted JUST like the Olive Garden tossed salad – with all the same components.  As a matter of fact, the photo above is of the Olive Garden salad, but it looked so much like the Maggiano’s salad, I just used that one.  It had a nice Italian dressing – a little too much, as it pooled on the bottom, and had tomatoes, romaine lettuce, olives, red onion and croutons.  Tasty – just like Olive Garden.

The Caesar salad was really good.  The dressing was creamy, and the huge slivers of Paremesan cheese shaved on top were delicious.  Eilis ate nearly the entire Caesar salad on her own, but it’s okay, because if we had wanted, they would have brought more.  Just like at the Olive Garden.

For those of you who are gastrically altered, there are options with way more protein, but one is the chicken and apple salad.  I can’t eat much in the way of chicken – it gets stuck nearly every time.  In addition to the chicken, there are walnuts in the salad, so you are getting more protein that way.  The other salad that would have been better protein wise is the chopped antipasto (which I would have ordered had the kids not been there).  That one carries a wallup of fat, though, with salami, prosciutto, pepperoni, and provolone cheese.

Overall, the salads were good, but if you have had gastric bypass, you are already too full to move on to the main course.  I did – but only for your sake.  The things I sacrifice for my blog readers!

Up next – the main courses!

Maggiano’s Little Italy – A Gastric Bypass Restaurant Review – Appetizers

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Sort of.  I’ll let you know how the gastrically altered might fare here, but I want to give you the overall review of the restaurant first.

We did not go into this trying to be cautious about my gastrically impaired self.  This was a birthday celebration dinner, and since this is our first time at the Maggiano’s in Cherry Hill, we wanted to sample some things.

There are choices when you go to Maggiano’s if you are a party of four or more.  You can order from the regular menu – which is a huge selection of pastas and other Italian specialty dishes, plus the salads, the soups, the appetizers and the desserts.  Since there are four of us, we opt for one of the family style menus.  The family style menu really contains much of what is on the regular menu, but it’s a prix fixe type of dining that includes up to two appetizers, two salads, four entrees, and two desserts.  It sounds like the perfect way to have everyone try a bit of everything.

But wait – there’s more choices!  If you opt for the family style menu, you now have to decide if you want to eat light (which includes fewer entrees and one dessert choice); the regular family style menu; or the chef’s choice family style menu.  The Chef’s choice, which is what we opted for, includes entrees and appetizers not offered on the regular menu, and is more inclusive of the pricier entrees you’ll find on the individual menu.

The bonus here, for those of you who have been to Buca di Beppo and love the family style dining, is that you can have anything you want refilled – everything from the salads to the desserts.  What a value!

We start with the fried calamari appetizer and the crab cake appetizer.  The fried calamari is always a hit with my kids – tentacles and all – but sometimes, for a gastric bypassed stomach, they can be too chewy to enjoy.  That wasn’t the case with these.  Lightly breaded with just enough saltiness, these were perfectly cooked, not chewy.  The sauce that accompanied them was okay – nothing to write home about – but the kids didn’t mind.  They didn’t even use the sauce as they polished off one plate of calamari and eagerly nodded their heads yes when the waiter asked if they’d like some more.

The crab cakes were a little too heavily breaded with quite a bit of filler.  There were some delicious chunks of crabmeat in there, but not enough that you’d want to make this your meal if you are relying on the protein content.  The sauce that came with them was just a tiny bit spicy, and it really helped add to the flavor of the crab cakes.  The kids were so full from the calamari, we ended up bringing home most of our crab cakes.

The crab cakes did come plated with a salad that was REALLY good – very flavorful.

Next up – salads.