The hacks from Ignite Restaurant Group have done it again; they've ruined yet another restaurant as this location has closed. They also own Joe's Seafood/Crab Shack and Brickhouse Tavern and Tap.
I seriously wonder if they're going to close Joe's Seafood Shack and open a Romano's there. It would be a very good location.
Virtually every day I get a coupon from Romano's; They're buying into the latest craze of sending out a "Today Only" coupon which borders on crossing the line between notification and SPAM. Today's offer was $5 off, which is the same you can get any day by simply signing up for email with a new email address. I've probably signed up 4 times, so I get a lot of emails from them.
I hadn't been to Plantation in a couple of years, so it was time to try something other than the Breaded Sole, which I really like. They've been acquired by Ignite Restaurant Group since my last visit; the same group that owns Joe's Crab Shack and Brickhouse Tap and Tavern; 2 places that have struggled mightily in Fort Lauderdale. Frankly, I was concerned what they might have done to Romano's.
The first thing you notice is that the music is really loud; much louder than you'd expect considering the old world decor.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Dining Room
Blasting on the speakers was Lea Michele's "Don't Let Go" along with "Postcards" and "It's easy to say". Quite a change from my previous visit which featured Italian ballads.
There's a big open kitchen that you can almost see from the dining room; the tiles show that the decor hasn't been updated in a while.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Open Kitchen
Somethng else that's new is the crayons; my table was equipped with a bottle of olive oil and some crayons.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Olive Oil and Crayons
I assumed that the crayons were for kids; the tables have paper "tablecloths" which aren't very elegant. When my iced tea was delivered, my server wrote her name with a crayon. I have to give her credit for being able to do this upside down.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Iced Tea and Crayon Introduction
Bread was also brought out immediately; I was afraid that the new owners would cut out the rosemary bread, which is the best part of coming here. It comes warm with a nice olive oil dip; and you have the bottle of oil to replenish it. If you're into bread you could just get an appetizer or small plate and eat the bread. It's good stuff.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Rosemary Bread and Oil Dip
I ordered the eggplant parmesan, and since I had the coupon I figured I'd get a Salad with my entree, which has a $4.50 upcharge. I got the "Bibb-Blue" salad, which I assumed was a blue cheese salad with Bibb lettuce. My server explained that it was ranch dressing with blue cheese crumbles, which sounded good enough.
The salad came out quickly.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Bibb and Blue Salad
Unfortunately, the salad had too many unwanted surprises. Well done pancetta simply isn't edible; I nearly broke a tooth trying to bite into this stuff. The salad also includes salad onions, which are fine, but also crispy onions and walnuts. If I knew it had all of this crap in it I never would have ordered it. Not terrible, but tomatoes belong in this salad and walnuts and crispy onions don't.
The entree came out as I was just starting the salad, which wasn't ideal. They always ask if they should bring it back when this happens, but do I really want it sitting on the counter in the back while I finish the salad?
Romano's Macaroni Grill Eggplant Parmesan Entree
They don't cheat you here, that's for sure; this was a Cheesecake Factoryesque portion. >The whole tomato garnish was a nice touch. The pasta and sauce was under seasoned, as is usual in today's tasteless food world, but the eggplant was better than some I've had down here. A bit overbreaded, but a decent lunch.
They also leave the skin on, which some like and some don't.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Eggplant Parmesan Close up
With the coupon, this came to under $15 before tip. Sarah was working up a sweat motoring around the dining room; the servers work hard here.
I like Romano's better than Carrabba's for the simple reason that Romano's has more "classic" recipes. Carrabba's tries to create their own and they're generally not very good. They didn't have Veal Parmesan, which I would have ordered, but they do have more of the standard Italian dishes as well as better bread than Carrabba's.
Every once in a while, I feel like going to one of the chain Italian Restaurants. The Olive garden in Fort Lauderdale is particularly bad; and Carrabba's isn't open for lunch. It's not a bad trip up Broward Blvd to get to this place; it's right about on the corner of W Broward and N University Blvd.
The place itself is barely better than Brio; they try to capture some sort of old world Italian feel but it's just not very nice. Le Cose Che Vivi plays. A server loads the table with menus; one with specials, one with wine and the regular menu; they're already pushing the wine-down wednesday thing at 2pm. The tables have a tablecloth and paper on top of it. It reminds me of my aunt's house, where all of the furniture was covered with plastic.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Plantation Interior
Despite the imperfections, Romano's has some high points. While my server spread out the menus, she also filled a saucer with olive oil; bread is a main part of the experience here. They have the best bread anywhere, and I do mean anywhere. A mini loaf of rosemary bread so fragrant that you can smell them bringing it to you before you can even see it.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Rosemary Bread
This loaf goes for like $4. at Fresh Market, and it's not warm and fresh. The bad part is that you want to eat the whole thing. They have olive oil on a little shelf above the table to reload the dip; The bread is a treat.
Like most chains, they have some really bad stuff here, but one of my favorite entrees is the parmesan crusted sole, which is served with an orzo salad and a lemon butter caper sauce.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Pamesan Encrusted Sole
I've had this at other Romano's, but for some reason it's never quite as good as they make it here. They do a particularly good job with the orzo salad; the delicate pasta, the sun-dried tomatoes and spinach pair beautifully with the fish. They didn't give me as much of the lemon butter sauce as I would have liked, and some extra lemon would have been nice, but I did without it. This is, after all, a chain restaurant.