By Jacqueline Monahan
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Christmas arrived early for lucky attendees at Maggiano’s Holiday in July Open House held right in the middle of the month, on July 17.  The restaurant, located on the second level of the Fashion Show Mall, featured carry-out, delivery, and banquet options like Bruschetta, (fresh tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar and roasted garlic on crostini), Roasted Vegetables (zucchini, asparagus, artichoke hearts, red bell pepper), Mini Meatballs (tender even though tiny), Mini Crab Cakes (moist and succulent bites) and desserts (see below).


Photos courtesy of Stephen Thorburn

The event, which took place in one of the venue’s dark-paneled banquet rooms, featured holiday decorations, complete with Christmas tree.  Passed appetizers included Shrimp Imperial, a stuffed delicacy that made each creation appear to be a small cornucopia of succulent flavor.  The Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, true to their name, were so massive that each one almost qualified for its own zip code.  These were marvelously tender, generous servings of seafood that evaporated off of the trays they were served from.


Shrimp Imperial


Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes

A Mushroom Ravioli, enhanced by parmesan cheese and nestled in a Marsala cream sauce beneath toasted herb breadcrumbs was so popular that the wait staff had to hustle to keep up with the demand.  The decadent Lobster Fondue, in a velvety Alfredo sauce contained large delectable chunks of seafood goodness to be ladled over slices of crusty bread.


 Roasted Mushroom Ravioli


Jumbo Lump Crab Cake and Roasted Vegetables

Small individual desserts packed big flavor, and each variation was compact enough to fit neatly into a hand (and quickly enough, a mouth).   A multi-textured Tiramisu, served in demitasse cups, consisted of ladyfinger cookies soaked in espresso and coffee liqueur, layered with creamy Mascarpone cheese, dusted with cocoa powder and toped with chocolate shavings.

Granny Smith-filled Apple Crostadas, in a flaky pastry crust and covered with crystallized sugar, were two-bite fruit favorites.  A New York style Cheesecake, its texture made fluffier by the addition of Ricotta cheese, held court at the dessert table in small cupcake-sized servings, as if anyone would stop at just one.   


Mimi Cheescakes and Chocolate Layer Cake

And then there was the addictive Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding, a product of brioche bread, brownie pieces, bananas, and custard all marrying each other in palate-pleasing ways.


Chocolate and Banana Bread Puddling

Maggiano’s Little Italy and its creative chefs offer even more reasons to visit the popular restaurant with their holiday menu full of temptation.  After all, one can’t be jolly on an empty stomach, now can one?

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