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[Papa’s Pastaria To Go]My Last Bite: Old-world spices, cooking put the ‘Mmm’ in Maciano’s

2021-09-08 19:59:21 

  My Last Bite, the Rockford Register Star’s dining column, publishes at noon Thursdays at rrstar.com. This week’s featured eatery is Maciano’s Pizza & Pastaria in Loves Park.

  Name: Maciano’s Pizza & Pastaria

  Address: 6746 Broadcast Parkway, Loves Park; also at 5801 Columbia Parkway, Rockford, and seven locations in the Chicago suburbs

  Phone/website: 815-633-7500; macianos.com

  Owner: Mark Bloomfield

  Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

  Wheelchair accessible: Yes.

  Most popular items:? Maciano’s advertises itself as casual, contemporary Italian with old-world craft. So it should come as no surprise that the pizza, pasta and salads are the favored items on the restaurant’s menu. Our waitress, Alicia, said the Chicken Parmigiana ($11.99) is one of the most requested dishes, as is the Baked Mostaccioli ($9.99). The Antipasto Salad ($8.49, regular; $22.99, family), which includes mortadella sausage, cappicola sausage, Genoa salami, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, pepperoncini peppers, Kalamata olives and croutons with the house dressing, is often the entire meal for many patrons, Alicia said.

  We ate:?My seafood-loving sons, Jack and Seth, shared a battle of words over whether we should order the Clams Donato ($7.99) or the Calamari Fritti ($6.99) as appetizers. So as not to bother the other customers, we ordered both. The Clams Donato is clams on the half shell sauteed, with a little onion, in a spicy garlic oregano broth. It was a hit with my family, and we even coerced Jack’s girlfriend, Savannah Oseguera, to try a bite. The clams were soft and garlicky — perfectly cooked. The spice used in the broth gave each bite a nice kick. A small loaf of French bread came with the dish and was used to sop up the extra juice/broth mixture; we worked fast to get every last drop.

  The calamari was also delectable. Tender and flavorful, the squid was nearly a meal in itself. I love when we find a restaurant that can cook the calamari so it isn’t rubbery. The batter was tasty and crisp, but didn’t overpower the calamari flavor. My husband, Eric, drizzled a little lemon over the plate to give the calamari a citrusy tang that made for a good pairing with the marinara dipping sauce.

  For our main courses — I’m revealing now that we went home with a lot of leftovers — we chose the large traditional thin crust pizza ($10.99, small; $13.49, medium; $15.99, large; $18.49, x-large) with sausage ($1.75 for each additional ingredient) and pepperoni, the Chicken Parmigiana (which was the evening special and came with a choice of soup or a side house salad) and the Baked Lasagna ($10.49).

  The lasagna is a family recipe with layers of ribbon noodles, four cheeses smothered in marinara sauce and a layer of melted mozzarella. This truly was a traditional Italian pasta dish, with lots of tomato flavor, soft but sturdy noodles and rich cheeses to fill you up. I added a little salt and a few red pepper flakes to jazz up the flavor. I love my spices.?

  I didn’t try the Chicken Parmigiana, but my family raved about the full-flavored chicken breast, sauce and fettuccine. Both the lasagna and the chicken came with garlic bread that was crispy, tangy and probably feared by vampires everywhere.

  We have ordered Maciano’s pizza many times and it is one of our favorites in the Rockford area. The thin crust is always flaky and crispy, the toppings are plentiful and the pizza sauce adds the perfect zing to each bite. We like the large selection of fresh ingredients, and there is a nice balance of toppings to cheese. If you aren’t a thin-crust fan, Maciano’s also offers double-dough, pan, deep dish, stuffed and gluten-free pizzas.

  ”Ahh” factor:? My biggest “Ahh” moment was my first bite into the Clams Donato. There is no question we’ll order this appetizer again.

  I also have to give props to Maciano’s for the size of its drinks. Fountain drinks are $2 each, and they are large and refillable. We ordered water, which came in the same large glasses, and our waitress never let us see the bottom.

  Next time:? I will order the bruschetta ($4.99), the jalapeno poppers ($6.99) and the antipasto salad.?

  Maggie Hradecky: 815-987-1367; mhradecky@rrstar.com; @maggiehrad