By Traci Wuerstl, Practicum Reporter
As drivers approach Denver from the highway, a massive restaurant catches the focus of hungry people on their way home from work.
It doesn’t look like your average Italian family restaurant. Maggiano’s Little Italy is a slightly upscale family-style space with a polished Italian finish.
I found my way into the restaurant with a friend on a weeknight around 7 p.m. and was greeted by friendly staff welcoming us into this modern version of Italy. Our noses were automatically filled with the aroma of freshly baked pizzas and other mouth-watering dishes.
As we were shown to our table, we saw a sea of people quickly filling the tables. We felt thankful we’d trickled in before all the seats were filled.
To begin the evening, we ordered Tuscan-style mussels that were served with thinly sliced toasted baguettes for dipping into mouthwatering broth. Each piece of bread was buttered and cooked to a slight crisp texture to give it a crunchy texture that exquisitely absorbed all the flavors of the broth.
The mussels were served in a big white bowl that was placed in the center of the table. They had a seasoned buttery flavor that made you want to eat more, finished with the flavor of fresh herbs.
Though we were so stuffed from the mussels, we knew we wanted to order another dish. The entrees were so large that we shared a main course. We ordered a specialty pasta dish called Orecchiette Chicken Pesto, which was the featured dish of the evening.
The fettuccini pasta was tossed in an herbed pesto that flavored the whole dish. Long slices of perfectly baked chicken rested across the pasta. The sun-dried tomatoes added a sweetness contrasted with salty pine nuts that complemented the pesto. The dish was beautifully finished with freshly shredded Parmesan.
The night couldn’t come to an end without trying something sweet to please our palates. To conclude the three-course meal, we ordered a famous Italian desert: Tiramisu. The creamy mascarpone cheese was whipped to perfection, layered with slightly bitter espresso-dipped lady fingers that were topped off with whipped cream and dark chocolate curls. The first bite magically melted in my mouth.
Every dish that was delivered to our table was elegantly arranged. The Tuscan-style mussels and Orecchiette Chicken Pesto pasta were both colorful. The way each dish was finished almost made me not want to take a bite and ruin it, but the smells clearly demanded us to taste them.
Though each dish was a little pricey, the quality of the food made it well worth each dollar.
Maggiano’s Little Italy had a welcoming ambiance and lovely staff that allowed friends and family to get away from home and take a quick vacation to Italy. The food was like something I have never tried, and I look forward to making a return visit soon to sample more delicious flavors.