Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Romano's Macaroni GrillRESTAURANT REVIEW — We like to find independent restaurants to eat at — local gems that are different and unusual — restaurants that are not part of national chains. True independent establishments. In Woodbridge, however, that can be a bit of a challenge. Of course, our curiosity has lured us into some nearby chain restaurants, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by both the food and (usually) the service.

Romano’s Macaroni Grill is one of those places.

We’ve been to the restaurant at Prince William Parkway and Telegraph Road probably dozens of times, initially drawn there a few years ago by their great happy hour deals. (Apparently, they were a little too good — they’ve since been stopped.) We would often sample the appetizers that were featured at half price during happy hour — the pizzas, fried mozzarella, bruschetta, calamari, shrimp and artichoke dip. All were very good, especially one of our favorites, the mozzarella alla caprese (mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and a wonderful balsamic vinaigrette). It is consistently terrific, and we think perhaps the best offering on the menu.

The Macaroni Grill also makes the kind of pizzas I really like: brick oven baked, thin-crusted and simple, not heaped with toppings and cheese but with ingredients that really stand out. Their “Sicilian” pizza is one of my favorites. A little marinara sauce topped with a sausage, pepperoni, fontina and mozzarella cheeses and a little fresh basil. Wonderful.

Recently we were wowed by a great entrée salad — the Parmesan Crusted Chicken salad with crispy bacon, mixed greens, roma tomatoes, shaved Parmesan and crumbled feta. Truly a delicious combination served with a hint of a balsamic reduction dressing drizzled over it as well as Parmesan peppercorn dressing. We tried it once as a takeout dish and again as an entrée at the restaurant. Both were quite tasty and definitely worth ordering again.

We’ve also ordered the “Mama’s Trio,” one of Macaroni Grill’s staples, which is a combination platter of their lasagna, chicken cannelloni and chicken Parmesan. It wasn’t in the same league as the salad, but it was an enjoyable dish.

In the past, I’ve gotten hooked on the Penne Rustica — a hearty dish of penne pasta, shrimp, grilled chicken and smoked prosciutto baked with Parmesan cheese. It’s very satisfying.

The boys (as boys will) wanted “macaroni and cheese.” It was nothing like the kind you buy in boxes from the grocery store. It was a simple version with large shell pasta, a little cheese, butter and cream. Our eldest son (7 years old) proclaimed it the best he’d ever tasted.

The only drawback has been sometimes disappointing service. Our waiter was a bit off on the timing of the dishes once (we waited a good while, playing tic-tac-toe with crayons on the paper-covered tablecloth with the boys, and then everything came at once). Also, the kids menu comes with free kids drinks and ice cream. But we didn’t notice the ice cream part until we got home and looked at the menu again. It would have been nice if the waiter had mentioned that and offered the ice cream. I know the boys certainly would have appreciated it.

But Macaroni Grill is definitely worth the trip. You’ll get a tasty, filling meal for a reasonable price. One suggestion: It’s a pretty popular place, so if you want to avoid the crowds and waiting for a table, try to go a little earlier or a little later than usual for lunch and the same for dinner.

IF YOU GO:
Romano’s Macaroni Grill
2641 Prince William Pkwy.
Map
703-491-3434
Curbside Food To Go available
Website: Romano’s Macaroni Grill

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