In the Provo-Orem area, there are three big Italian chain restaurants (Olive Garden, Macaroni Grill, & Carrabba’s) and the many smaller local Italian restaurants and mini-chains (Gloria’s, La Dolce Vita, The Italian Place, etc.). Most people have their favorite. Of the “big three”, I tend to favor Carrabba’s, but overall, my favorite thus far is Gloria’s Little Italy. That being said, we were given some gift cards for Macaroni Grill and went there for dinner.
It had been years since we had been there, but we were shocked that on a Friday night at 6:30 pm the place was practically deserted! On one hand, it’s a rare treat in our area to go at prime date-night dining time and be seated immediately, but on the other hand, it sure doesn’t signify popularity.
Our server was helpful and polite, although she seemed to be reciting a memorized and rehearsed line every time she spoke. We started by ordering the Mediterranean Olives plate ($3), but had to ask for it several times before it arrived after our salads. I’m a firm believer that if you order an appetizer at the same time as your drinks, it should come out well before your entrée and even before salads or soups. C’mon people, it’s an appetizer! The olives were unimpressive.
We received the traditional Rosemary Bread with herbs and olive oil for dipping (we actually got two loaves since the olives were also served with a loaf). We loved the bread and were thrilled to have an extra loaf to take home. There’s just something about tearing pieces of bread off and dipping them in herbed oil that makes me happy! However, we couldn’t get away from comparing both the olives and olive oil to our amazing experience at Walt Disney World’s Kouzzina: our favorite olives & olive oil from a restaurant ev-er.
I ordered a Bibb & Blue side salad, which ended up being huge. It seriously could have been a meal for me. It was fantastic with bibb lettuce leaves, crisp pancetta, walnuts, pickled red onions, blue cheese shavings, & buttermilk dressing. The pancetta was crisp and delicious and the pickled onions were perfect…so much milder & sweeter than plain raw onions. I loved this salad except for the fact that the lettuce leaves were whole and huge, so I had to cut the whole thing up, which ended being quite messy. But I still ate the entire thing.
For entrees, we had the rare occurrence of both of us ordering the same thing. I know, unexciting, but we were both in the mood for the same thing: Grilled Shrimp Spiedini, grilled shrimp on skewers served with roasted peppers, zucchini, & red onions, fingerling potatoes, & lemon oil. Unfortunately, we were both very disappointed with the dish. The shrimp seemed old. They were fishy, tough, and over-cooked…yuck. The roasted vegetables were overdone, as well, to the point of being limp and overly soft. The lemon oil was almost bitter. The potatoes were the best part of the plate and were nicely roasted with a coating of parmesan cheese.
To end the meal, I ordered a Lemon Passion dessert to take home and enjoy later. The Lemon Passion is a citrus cake with lemon curd and whipped cream. It is a very moist cake that reminds me of a tres leches cake. The “lemon curd” is more like a lemon mousse topping and the whipped cream is very soft. I’ve had this dessert in the past and enjoyed it more than this time. Perhaps it was because they packaged it in a to-go box, but it seemed to be a very small portion that looked like very little care had been taken to assemble it.
Since we spent some time walking around the Riverwoods shopping area, the restaurant was kind enough to hold our desserts and leftovers for us. Overall, though, we were quite disappointed in this visit to Macaroni Grill. Perhaps many other diners are, as well, and that is the reason for the scarce number of people at the restaurant. I don’t think we’ll be back. If you happen to go, be sure to order the Bibb & Blue salad, though.
Entrée Price: $$
Average Fork Rating: 2.5
Mr. Diner: 2
Mrs. Diner: 3 (the salad & bread were the only things redeeming it from being a 2)