Maggiano’s Little Italy – Review Wrap Up

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!

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

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

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

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.

A Light At The End of the Tunnel?

Today marked visit number I’ve lost count with the fabulous Dr. Nestor Veitia.  I’m going to run out of things to operate on before I’m going to want to give up visiting with this guy!

It was the first time in a long time that I felt restrained giddiness about this healing process!  I look amazing – I don’t say that to be arrogant, I’m just comparing what I looked like before to what I look like now, and the transformation is amazing.  Dr. Veitia has been patient, understanding, caring, compassionate, and concerned – and has worked so hard to get me to this point.  I could not be happier.

The wound VAC is totally gone as of today – the end of my one week test period without it.  How awesome is that?  I’m headed to Florida in a week to do a whirlwind weekend that combines a BFF reunion with a Walt Disney World Moms Panel PR event.  I don’t have to worry about my battery dying, the machine failing, the nurses complaining that I’m supposed to be house bound.  It’s pure pleasure this time around.

People have asked, and I just wanted you to know that I feel fine.  Better than fine.  At some point in the not too distant future, I’ll share the before and afters with you.  I hope you’ll be as amazed as I am.

Cross Culture Indian Cuisine – Bariatric Bad News?

I just wanted to quickly wrap up my review of Cross Culture Indian Cuisine in Haddonfield, NJ with my spin for gastric bypass patients.  There are pros and cons to dining on Indian cuisine for those of us that are gastrically altered.

To start with, rice is a big component in a meal here.  The entrees that aren’t composed primarily of rice come with a steaming plate of basmati rice.  For many gastric bypass patients, such as myself, rice is not your friend.  For me, it tastes good, but once I have it in my stomach, it seems to expand to the size of a large beach ball, and makes it not only difficult to eat anything else, but it makes me seriously uncomfortable.

You can opt for things like the tandoori dishes and kebabs, but  keep in mind that unless they are expertly prepared, for many of us, shrimp and chicken can also be an issue.  I skipped the tandoori chicken on our appetizer sampler, heading for the much moister and Gastric bypass friendlier fish.

Lastly, bread is a problem for some gastrically altered folks.  Not for me.  I could have eaten the whole bread basket and been very happy.  But that’s not much of a meal, and for me, bread can be a slider food.  I can eat way too much of it, and come back for more later on.

So, Indian cuisine can be a hit or miss for gastric bypass patients.  Choose the primarily protein based dishes, skip the basmati rice, avoid the bread basket, and watch your proteins for texture.  You should be able to find enough to enjoy without going home regretting the meal.

Cross Culture Indian Cuisine – But Wait, There’s More! Dessert

Jim ordered the Indian rice pudding, kheer, which is more of a soupy version of what you expect rice pudding to be.  He loved the flavors, although admittedly, the lack of “pudding” was something to get used to.  This was not my Grandmother’s rice pudding, creamy and thick, then baked in the oven to get a nice golden layer on top.  It was tasty, though.

I opted for the kulfi, an Indian ice cream made with pistachios and walnuts.  I’ve never had this before, but found the texture a little off putting (like ice cream that has been in your freezer too long), and the taste overly sweet.  It did have some interesting flavors, but the texture kind of killed it for me.  The kids’ chocolate ice cream looked much creamier than what I was eating.  It was pretty, though.

Dinner for the four of us, including tax and tip, came to about $140.  This is way more than we would usually pay to just go grab dinner somewhere, but this was my birthday dinner, so we splurged.  We also came home with enough food to feed the whole family another meal – if the whole family was going to eat it.  Since it will likely only be Jim and I eating the left overs, we can eat all weekend!

You can find Cross Culture Indian Cuisine at

208 Kings Highway

Haddonfield, NJ

856-428-4343

Cross Culture Indian Cuisine – the Main Event

I knew Jim would want spicy, and I felt like the meals the kids and I ate had to be toned down – flavorful without burning our faces off.  We had thought we’d order only two entrees, but there was so much on the menu that looked like it would be delicious, we ended up ordering two entrees for the kids and I to share, and a chicken vindaloo for Jim.  He not only enjoyed the spiciness of the dish, but the sweat running down his head and his neck indicated that it was indeed spicy enough for him.  I took a small bite.  Yeah, it was spicy enough for him, because it nearly killed me.

The kids and I were going to tuck in to the Chef’s Special Biryani, which was basmati rice cooked with shrimp, chicken and lamb, cashew nuts and golden raisins, and combined with saffron and light spices.  It was delicious, with texture that was like a surprise party with every bit.  Wonderful dish!

I also opted for a traditional lamb rogan josh, which you can find on any Indian menu.  It was well prepared, although the amount of lamb was a little sparse.  The kids deemed it too spicy, but I enjoyed it very much.

What’s for dessert?  Find out next…

Cross Culture Indian Cuisine – The Bread

We ordered a bread basket, which came with Naan, onion Kulcha, and Puri.The least popular was the puri, which the kids thought was great fun to look at, as it came out like a large balloon on the plate, but once the balloon was deflated, it sort of became a soggy, flavorless bit of bread that no one wanted to eat.

The favorite by far for me was the kulcha.  I expected an overwhelming onion flavor, but I was so pleasantly surprised!  The onion added only a sweetness to this warm, delicious bread, and while I had been hoping to save my appetite for a pumpkin scone at the British pub a few doors down, I quickly gave up that idea to indulge in way more kulcha than I should have.  It was that good.

The Naan was typical, warm and delicate in flavor.  The kids ate it up.

My only disappointment with the bread basket is that the $8.50 charge didn’t include any additional dipping sauces or accompaniments.  I would have liked something to go along with the bread, but we did make use of the mint yogurt sauce and the sweet sauce.

Moving on to the Main Event!