Maggiano's begins 'next chapter' with premium cocktails, ingredient upgrades

Updates such as tableside drink service and specially grown tomatoes are designed to give customers more bang for their buck at the polished-casual Italian chain.
The changes come under Maggiano's new president, Dominique Bertelone. | Photo courtesy of Maggiano's Little Italy

Maggiano’s Little Italy is upgrading its cocktail menu and shifting to more premium ingredients as it looks to give customers more bang for their buck.

The 52-unit polished-casual chain called the moves the first act in its “next chapter,” which will “set the standard for Italian-American dining” with elevated cocktails and more curated products, such as tomatoes grown expressly for use in its marinara sauce.

Overseeing the changes is new President Dominique Bertelone, who joined Maggiano’s parent Brinker International in December. His previous experience in food and beverage operations at MGM Resorts and the Bellagio helped inform Maggiano’s new direction, which is inspired by the luxury dining experiences that abound in Las Vegas and Italy.

“With these changes, we're raising the bar for ourselves and most importantly, our guests,” Bertelone said in a statement.

Smoked Old Fashioned

The Smoked Old Fashioned is served in a smoke box, which adds flavor, plus a wow factor. | Photo courtesy of Maggiano's Little Italy

The new cocktails, which have been dubbed the Mixologist Collection, are designed to appeal to the senses with foams, aromatic garnishes and a heavy dose of theatrics: The Smoked Old Fashioned, for instance, is presented to the guest in a smoke box.

Other options include the Pomegranate Martini, which is shaken and served tableside; the Rosa Spritz, poured tableside from a carafe and finished with a spritz of rose water; and the Grand Margarita featuring Maggiano’s housemade Italian foam.

The elevated beverages will have a slightly higher price point of $14 to $17. Maggiano’s will also continue to offer a selection of classic cocktails like gin and tonics, negronis, mules and mojitos.

On the core menu, customers will see the same classic Italian-American dishes Maggiano’s is known for. But they’ll be prepared with more premium ingredients, such as the aforementioned specially grown tomatoes. The Alfredo sauce will be made with higher quality heavy cream and Asiago cheese.

The upgrades will not result in higher menu prices, a representative for the chain said.

The changes come as restaurants from fast food to casual dining are looking to offer customers more value after years of bruising price increases. While many have turned to discounting and bundling to drive traffic, Maggiano’s is taking the path of improving its food and experience while keeping prices the same.

It noted that there will be more new offerings to come throughout the summer and fall, some of which will involve industry figures such as Master Sommelier Jason Smith.

Dallas-based Maggiano’s was founded in 1991 in Chicago by multiconcept operator Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. It was acquired by Brinker in 1995 and today has locations in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

The chain finished 2023 on a strong note, with same-store sales growth of 6.7% year over year in the fourth quarter. But in the first three months of 2024, same-store sales increased just 1.7% compared to a year ago.

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