What do you think of when you imagine the perfect Italian dish? Fresh tomatoes, lots of cheese, and delicious pasta? Italian food is full of flavors that Americans have come to know and love, and at Maggio’s we celebrate delicious Italian food with many of our dishes, and are excited to introduce you to some flavors that might become new favorites! Italian food centers around fresh ingredients that are minimally processed yet delicious. While some Italian foods, such as pizza, were not heard of in Italy until the 19th century or later, they are now an integral part of the Italian food world. The Italian kitchen was always the hub of the home and the cultural and emotional center. The essence of Italian cooking revolves around family, and at Maggio’s we hope to capture some of the old world Italian feelings of friends and family in every Italian dish we serve. Italian food centers around simple ingredients, genuine flavors, and no overwhelming spices. This is what makes dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and fettucini alfredo so appealing—they are comfort foods that take simple ingredients and make dishes that are hearty and delicious.
Everyone loves pizza! A classic for many parties, work lunches, and a great crowd pleaser, pizza has become integral in American cuisine. The Italian roots of pizza stretch back to ancient Naples where there was a large population of poor working class people called the lazzaroni. These workers needed inexpensive food that could be eaten quickly before they had to get back to work. Flatbreads were the answer, and could be sold by street vendors with assorted toppings for a cheap, quick meal. Some of these early flatbreads had the signature ingredients we think of as classic today: tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies, and garlic. The inclusion of tomatoes is especially interesting, because until the 16th century tomatoes were considered inedible and poisonous as they were part of the nightshade family. By the 18th century the deliciousness of tomatoes won out over poisonous superstition and the lazzaroni were enjoying flatbreads with tomatoes daily. The dish even became a tourist attraction and visitors wanted to experience this legendary pizza dish that was being served in the poorest areas of town!
In 1861 pizza got another boost in popularity. Queen Margherita visited Naples and wanted to try some of the local delicacies. She ate a variety of pizzas and was particularly struck by the one that featured mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. This combination is still popular today, and affectionately known as pizza margherita. The marinara style of pizza is older than the margherita, and utilizes tomato, oregano, garlic, and oil to create a delicious, classic sauce. It was traditionally prepared by “la marinara”, the seaman’s wife, when their husbands returned from fishing expeditions. Italian immigrants who came to America in the 19th century brought with them the treasured tradition of pizza, and in large Italian neighborhoods in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, and St. Louis, pizza was sold on the street by vendors. Up until the 20th century pizza was mainly consumed by Italian immigrants and their descendants, but after Allied troops came back from Italy after World War II they brought an affection for pizza back with them. While pizza enthusiasts might claim that there are only two true forms of pizza, margherita and marinara, we at Maggio’s embrace pizza flavors of all kinds, and you can always create your own!
Nothing is quite as comforting as a big, hearty bowl of your favorite pasta topped with a delicious sauce. The average American eats about 20 pounds of pasta a year, while the average Italian eats a whopping 60 pounds! Pasta is an Italian favorite that Americans have embraced as a staple, and at Maggio’s we celebrate pasta in many of our dishes! The early origins of pasta are unknown, but regardless of who was eating it first, pasta has endured as an Italian staple. One classic Italian pasta dish, fettucine alfredo, has an interesting origin story. It traces its roots back to a pregnant wife and her husband, Alfredo di Lelio, who wanted to cook her a dish that wouldn’t upset here sensitive stomach. He tossed fresh pasta with butter and Parmesan and created a delicious dish that not only could his wife tolerate, but that ended up on his restaurant’s menu! The dish was brought back to America and “Alfredo’s fettuccine” became famous for its simple deliciousness. Lasagna is another classic dish, that may have its roots in ancient Greece, but has become ubiquitously Italian. Lasagna combines simple ingredients including ground beef, fresh pasta, ricotta, mozzarella cheese and classic marinara sauce to create a layered dish that is definitely a treat! Lasagna can be time consuming to make, so come to Maggio’s to let us do the hard work for you! We have other amazing dishes such as spaghetti carbonara (pasta and bacon, what could be better?), pesto pasta, and baked ziti. Italian food wouldn’t be the same without pasta, and at Maggio’s we give you so many great ways to enjoy it!
Sausages are used throughout Italian cooking, both as a main ingredient and also as a way to enhance the flavors in any dish. Sausages can be grilled, served in a stew, used on top of pizza, or stirred into a delicious pasta dish. Italian sausages have a flavor all their own, and are made from pork and utilize spices, mainly fennel, to achieve their classic taste. It is thought that Italian sausages were first made in ancient Lucania in southern Italy. Sausages were easy to store and transport and gave much needed protein to troops in ancient Rome. The word sausage comes from the Latin salsus, or salted. Who first thought to combine Italian sausage with onions and peppers? We don’t know, but we don’t need the origins to know that this is one killer combination! At Maggio’s we serve up an Italian sausage sandwich that has sauteed onions and green peppers and is smothered in marinara sauce and provolone! Italian sausage for the win!
We obviously love food here at Maggio’s and we are so happy to be able to offer so many unique and delicious dishes with not only Italian roots, but also Greek! Greek food is fresh, healthy, and features bright herbs and vibrant flavors. Greek food seeks to highlight, not disguise, food’s natural flavor through the use of olive oil, salt, and carefully selected herbs. Maggio’s carries many Greek favorites, and we are excited to introduce you to Greek cuisine if you have never had it before! Some staples of Greek cooking include olive oil, lemon, garlic, cucumbers, oregano, and fresh feta cheese. The warm weather of Greece is perfect for producing the olive trees that give delicious olives and oils used in most Greek dishes. It is also well suited for fresh herbs, like oregano, that grow wild all over the countryside. On some days the air is filled with the delicious fragrance of fresh herbs mixed with the salt of the sea! Greek food captures some of the freshness of the Greek islands, and combines simple flavors to create unique, bold dishes.
One of the things that is so memorable about Greek food is the amazingly flavorful and tender meats. Souvlaki is small pieces of meat that are marinated and grilled on a skewer. The result is tender, flavorful meat that is kept moist through the grilling process and is absolutely delicious! We offer both a chicken souvlaki sandwich and a chicken souvlaki dinner to try the great flavors! Souvlaki is enjoyed with tzatziki, a Greek cucumber sauce, pita bread, and feta cheese. Tzatziki is made from salted strained yogurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, lemon and spices. The bright, fresh flavor of tzatziki is a perfect complement to the savory goodness of grilled meats. Feta cheese adds a fatty, creamy, and salty element to any dish, and pairs perfectly with our souvlaki dishes! Feta is a brined cheese that originates in ancient Greece and can all a burst of flavor to any dish! The finishing touch for our souvlaki dishes is the addition of classic pita bread. If you have never tried this Greek staple, it is a bread that is present at almost every meal. It is soft and slightly leavened and great for wrapping up meat and vegetables. Pita is delicious on its own, and perfect for our souvlaki! If you are wanting a new way to enjoy grilled chicken, you have to try our classically Greek souvlaki!
Gyros is probably the most iconic Greek dish, and one that has steadily gained popularity in America as a delicious alternative to hamburgers and hot dogs. Gyro meat is a blend of lamb and beef that is cooked on a rotisserie and then sliced off in thin strips. Watching gyro meat cook and be sliced is almost as much fun as eating it! The thin strips of gyro meat are bursting with flavor and are amazing all wrapped up in our classic pita. The addition of lettuce, onion, and tomato, and of course our tzatziki sauce, add the finishing touch to this classic Greek dish. If you are looking for a restaurant where you can try Greek flavors, head to Maggio’s to enjoy a gyros plate or sandwich!
Lamb is not a familiar meat for many Americans, but the Greeks know how delicious lamb is! Lamb has a unique flavor profile that is decidedly unique, and is gives our gyros their delicious flavor. An Easter tradition in Greece is a whole lamb roasted on a spit, and for people who have just fasted for 40 days for Lent this is a welcome and celebratory meat! Lamb has always had a place in traditional holidays and celebrations, and is one of the central meats of Greek cooking.
At Maggio’s you can get the classic flavor of lamb in our lamb shanks over rice, and these tender, fall-off-the-bone pieces of lamb are sure to become a new favorite! Lamb shanks are traditionally an inexpensive cut of meat that the Greeks turned into a delicacy by cooking them low and slow. Lamb is a great way to immerse yourself in the flavors of Greece and to try something really out of the ordinary!
The origins of Greek salad are humble—this now famous salad has its roots as a peasant salad eaten by country folk. The hallmark ingredients of a classic Greek salad are lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers , feta cheese and kalamata olives with a Greek dressing that highlights oregano. It is thought that the practice of eating salad at a meal was started by the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. Hippocrates believed that raw vegetables were great for your health (he was onto something!), and that if you could eat a variety of vegetables before your meals it would help with digestion. Greek salad certainly is a delicious way to get your veggies in! Greek salad is a great example of how a small assortment of fresh foods can be combined with a few simple herbs to create a salad that is bursting with flavor! Greek salad has the creaminess of cheese, the richness of olive oil, the freshness of vegetables, and the bright, herby goodness of fresh oregano and other spices. It also contains the iconic Kalamata olive, and if there is one thing that Greece is known for, it is the olives! The olive tree is a symbol of honor and culture, and also produces a staple of the Greek diet! If you want to experience the flavors of Greece in a healthy salad, try Maggio’s Greek salad today!