Thursday, May 2, 2013

Vegetarian Options at Italian Restaurants- Macaroni Grill, Carrabba’s, and Maggiano’s


My recent "Create Your Own Pasta" at Macaroni Grill.  Bowtie pasta with garlic cream sauce, artichokes, asparagus, and caramelized onions. 

If you’re going out to eat out with friends, and want to increase the odds that you will have multiple options for vegetarian fare, then vote for an Italian restaurant.  Italian cuisine lends itself well to vegetarian friendly food.  I have compiled the vegetarian menu items from Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and Maggiano’s Little Italy. 

Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Romano’s Macaroni Grill has been around since 1988, but I just discovered them around 6 years ago in San Antonio.  The first Macaroni Grill was in nearby Leon Springs, Texas.  The MG menu offers many classic Italian dishes, such as Fettuccine Alfredo and Eggplant Parmesan.  My favorite entrée is their “Create Your Own Pasta”, and my number one favorite ingredient is caramelized onions. 

Macaroni Grill offers a respectable number of vegetarian options: 

Tapas:  Bruschetta crostini, fried mac & cheese bites with truffle dip, crispy artichoke potato cakes, goat cheese stuffed peppadew peppers, zucchini fritti.  My brother and I recently had the mac & cheese bites, which were good. 

Macaroni Grill Fried Mac & Cheese Bites with truffle dip
Antipasti:  Crispy fresh mozzarella, Mediterranean olives, pomodorina soup (plum tomatoes, mozzarella crouton, basil pesto)

Pantry:  Caprese salad (mozzarella, tomatoes, basil), Caesar salad.  Ask for other MG salads without the meat.   I really like caprese salad and Caesar salad, so hard to go wrong here. 

Pizza & Flatbread:  Wild mushroom & goat cheese flatbread, Margherita pizza

Artisan Sandwiches:  Caprese Panini (mozzarella, tomatoes, basil)

Fresh Pasta:  These two options sound really good. 
Eggplant Quadratini- square pasta tubes in tomato-based sauce with roasted eggplant.  Check out this photo from the Macaroni Grill website: 

Mushroom Ravioli- porcini mushroom stuffed ravioli, marsala cream sauce, and caramelized onions.  Check out this photo from their website: 


Fettuccine Alfredo

Eggplant Parmesan
Create Your Own Pasta

Create Your Own Pasta Options: 

Pasta:  Spaghetti, capellini, penne, farfalle (bowtie), whole wheat fettuccine, rigatoni, gluten-free penne, four cheese ravioli

Sauces:  pomodoro, arrabbiata, garlic olive oil, garlic cream, alfredo, basil pesto

Choose 3 Toppings:  roasted peppers, broccolini, fresh spinach, roasted tomatoes, artichokes, roasted garlic, snap peas, roasted mushrooms, cannellini beans, asparagus, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted eggplant

I like toppings like spinach, mushrooms, and artichokes, but my favorite Macaroni Grill topping is caramelized onions

 My brother's "Create Your Own Pasta" at Macaroni Grill.  Four cheese ravioli, alfredo sauce, roasted garlic, and caramelized onions. 


Carrabba’s Italian Grill

The first Carrabba’s opened in 1986 in Houston, Texas.  Another Houston restaurant was followed by the addition of 10 Carrabba’s in Texas and Florida.  Now there are over 200 Carrabba’s Italian Grill locations nation-wide.  Carrabba’s offers a respectable 5 vegetarian appetizers and 5 vegetarian pasta dishes. 

Complimentary sourdough bread, olive oil, herbs & spices.  Very good. 


Appetizers:  Tomatoes caprese, bruschette, slow-roasted tomato & ricotta flatbread, zucchini fritte, mozzarella marinara.  Their complimentary bread with olive oil, herbs, and spices is very good.  The herb & spice blend is one of the best I've had. 

Soup:  Minestrone, Tomato Basil.  I had the tomato basil, which was quite good.  I like that it was fairly smoothe.  I don't like huge chunks of tomato. 
Carrabba's Tomato Basil Soup
Salads:  House, Italian, Caesar, citrus arugula salad.  I opted for soup, and my brother had a Caesar.  Next time I think I'll have the arugula salad. 

Caesar Salad

Paninis:  Caprese Panini

Wood-Fired Pizzas:  Choose from:  kalamata olives, mushrooms, sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, fresh milk mozzarella, basil


Stuffed Pasta: 
Manicotti:  Four cheeses, pomodoro sauce, mozzarella

Signature Pasta: 

Tag Pic Pac:  Tagliarini in our Picchi Pacchiu sauce with crushed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil

Spaghetti:  Topped with pomodoro sauce (tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil)

Penne Franco:  Mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and black olives, in garlic and oil with ricotta salata cheese

Pasta Sostanza:  Tagliarini with sautéed mushrooms, artichoke hearts and spinach in tomato basil sauce topped with seasoned breadcrumbs.  I had this pasta, and truthfully I wasn’t blown away.  I found it to be a little bland.  I took my leftovers home and gave them to a friend who thought it was fabulous.  Maybe my taste buds were muted that day. 

My Pasta Sostanza recently at Carrabba's

Pasta Carrabba:  Fettuccine alfredo with sautéed mushrooms and peas (ask to omit the grilled chicken)

Maggiano’s Little Italy

The first Maggiano’s opened in 1991 in Chicago.  There are now over 50 Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurants, located in over 20 states.  Maggiano’s offers an impressive 7 vegetarian appetizers and 7 vegetarian side dishes, as well as 5 vegetarian pastas. 

Maggiano’s has lots of options geared toward family-style meals.  I thought this restaurant had a really nice atmosphere, and very attentive wait staff. 
Appetizers:  Bruschetta, spinach & artichoke al forno, tomato caprese, mozzarella marinara, crispy zucchini fritte, stuffed mushrooms, crispy onion strings

Flatbreads:  Margherita flatbread

Salads:  Italian tossed salad, Caesar salad, spinach salad (skip the bacon)

Sides:  crispy red potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach, broccolini with lemon & garlic, spaghetti marinara, angel hair aglio olio (olive oil and garlic), fresh grilled asparagus


Classic Pastas:  If you order Marco's Meal for Two from the Dinner menu, you get one appetizer, one dessert, and four classic pasta choices!  My brother and I did this and each ordered a classic pasta entree for dinner, and each got a complimentary classic pasta to take home. 

Spaghetti Marinara:  Spaghetti served with MLI’s classic blend of tomatoes, basil, oregano and olive oil
Four Cheese Ravioli:  Ravioli stuffed with Ricotta cheese, cream cheese, mozzarella and Provolone. Served in a pesto-alfredo cream sauce with a touch of marinara.

Eggplant Parmesan:  Sliced eggplant, breaded and fried, layered with Provolone cheese and marinara sauce.  This dish seemed to me like the eggplant was battered and layered like a casserole and baked.  I especially appreciated that the pasta was firm, just like I like it. 

My Maggiano's Eggplant Parmesan

Fettuccine Alfredo:  Fettuccine tossed with garlic in an Asiago cream sauce
Mushroom Ravioli al Forno:  Mushroom ravioli in alfredo sauce

 This is a small serving of my Mushroom Ravioli carryout

Specialty Pastas: 
Our Famous Rigatoni ‘D’:  (Made to order, so ask to skip the chicken) rigatoni pasta, mushrooms, caramelized onions, marsala cream sauce


Our Tiramisu at Maggiano’s.  I’m usually lukewarm about Tiramisu, but this was fabulous.  It had a really rich espresso and cocoa flavor. 

Vegetarian Options at Olive Garden, Carino’s, and Zio’s
See also my blog post summary of vegetarian appetizers, soups, and entrées at Olive Garden, Johnny Carino’s, and Zio’s Italian restaurants. 
My Eggplant Parmesan at Olive Garden.  It was outstanding.  So far my top pick for Eggplant Parm.



1 comment:

  1. Our family is vegetarian and have been wary of trying Carrabba's...its online menu is deceptively very veg unfriendly...good to know we were wrong! :)

    Great post, definitely agree with you about Olive Garden having the best Eggplant Parmesan :)