If you don’t have a Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant near you, you may have a similar Italian restaurant that serves family style meals. (I see there are no Maggiano’s in Maine, which is probably because they are satisfied with all Dunkin Donuts, all the time).
The family style dinner, for one price per person, includes two items from each category: appetizers, salads, pasta, entrees and desserts and is served to groups of four or more. (The reason Maggiano’s is not in Montana is that you can’t get four or more unibomber loners to gather together at one table). You can also add two vegetable servings to the meal for $2 per person. (This is the reason Maggiano’s is in Texas: death by gluttony is an acceptable form of capital punishment there).
This concept may seem simple; you order the meal and share it, right? Wrong. You see, if you eat all of any of the items on the meal, they will bring you more. Whatever is left after you are all satiated and/or comatose, you can take home. So the strategy is all about optimizing the leftovers quantity. We once had a 50-person potluck to attend and we were able to supply the entire potluck group with what we carried home from Maggiano’s the night before. No one else brought anything. And my wife and I still had lunch for a week on what remained.
The key to leftover maximization is to understand that the quantity of food in each course is apportioned to feed multiples of four. Granted, the portions are generous, but, if you go with four people, you will eat the food they bring and have little, if any left to take home – usually no more than would serve the offensive line of a football team. If your group is six people, however, they will bring you food for eight. Now you’re getting somewhere.
That was our MO for the first few times we ate there. One time we had only one other couple to go with, so we co-opted a young couple at a nearby table who were on a prom date. “But I can only afford the cheap pasta dinners,” the young man whined. “Shut up and help push these tables together,” we shouted as we relieved him of the money he was holding back to buy condoms and Mike’s Hard Lemonade after the prom. We kept their share of the leftovers just to compensate for the aggravation. One time my in-laws didn’t want to go along with the other four’s choice of appetizer, so we traded them to another table for Joe and Rita, an elderly couple whom we have now convinced that they are our parents; we take them to the restaurant whenever we need added ordering power.
After a while, we learned a better strategy than using one odd couple to get extra food, and all you need is four people in your party. What you do is, when each course comes, instead of eating both and being satisfied, you all agree to eat just one of the items, then order more of that one, then eat parts of the two dishes. Now you have one full serving of each course leftover, equivalent to the average amount of food served on a Carnival Cruise ship each week.
I sold this secret strategy to some young men who attend college south of the Ohio border. This is why there is no Maggiano’s in Kentucky; those guys put them out of business.
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