PAsta Di Mare

Deep-fried Mac And Cheese? Oh, Yes

I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone decided to try dipping macaroni and cheese in the deep-fryer. Appropriately enough, it’s Macaroni Grill that now claims the new signature dish. The restaurant has put a somewhat elegant spin on the dish a bit like D.K. Kodama’s treatment of saimin adding a touch of truffle oil to the cheese. The result: bitesized golden nibbles of pasta dusted with Parmesan and accompanied by a creamy truffled dipping sauce. And while no one’s claiming it’s the healthiest appetizer on the menu, the bites are proving to be a big hit.

“They’re really small,” says Macaroni Grill’s executive chef Mike Longworth with a grin, when asked about the fat content.

The macaroni is prepared, then left to cool overnight. Once hardened, it’s cut into small blocks and then fried until the outer coating turns a crisp, golden brown.

You could say it’s a version of the popular Italian deepfried mozzarella.

Originally meant as appetizers, guests are ordering them up to share with entrees, too.


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Combination lunches are two for $11 or three for $13

“They’re a huge, huge hit,” says Longworth. “You can’t even imagine how much people love them.”

The new bites are all part of a distinctly different Macaroni Grill menu debuting across the nation. Part elegant reconstruction, and partly an attempt to continue to draw adult diners (with or without their kids), Macaroni Grill’s new menu is impressive. From a Bibb & Blue salad (soft, buttery Bibb lettuce dressed with buttermilk, pickled red onions, walnuts, pancetta and topped with sweet, caramelized onions) to Bruschetta Crostini (white beans and herbs drizzled with olive oil atop warm, crisp crusted bread) to a simple Caprese Panini, there’s a lighter touch and an obvious attempt to woo a more sophisticated diner.

In Pasta Di Mare, a dish featuring chitarra pasta (think al dente udon), scallops, mussels and shrimp are infused with a white wine pomodoro broth sweetly scented with garlic and herbs. It’s a dish that wouldn’t be out of place in the most sophisticated Italian restaurant and at $20 for a hearty bowl, one that’s more than reasonably priced.

“Customers just love the new menu,” says the Grill’s Chase Suzuki. “The Chicken Under a Brick is something that they keep coming back for, and they love the Grilled King Salmon, too.”

It’s tough for restaurants to make sweeping menu changes, even tougher sometimes for staff to adapt to the difference in the kitchen. So far, this rebranding seems to be going smoothly.

With enough classics and favorites on the menu to keep diehard customers happy, and more than enough small plates and shared dishes to encourage new diners, Macaroni Grill is stepping into the new year with a bold new look.

Dishes such as Whole Wheat Fettuccine, Chicken Under a Brick, and Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Flatbread should ensure that it’s one that’s here to stay.

Happy eating!