In these dark times, truth is an endangered species. Trust is hard to come by. But at mealtime, we lay bare our vulnerabilities. When a plate hits the table, we're putting the utmost trust that those who prepared our food have our best interest in mind. And our best interest is rooted in trust.
Recently, my trust was shattered. All it took was one trip to the popular Romano’s Macaroni Grill.
I wasn’t expecting a lot from this popular chain: just some simple, delicious Italian fare. Not upscale, but not cheap. I believe the word is "rustica." And true to form, things began delectably. I savored my springy calamari fritti, practically licking that black pepper aioli out off the dish in between hearty gulps of my Cranberry Splash, made from a blueberry Red Bull so authentic it made me miss my nonna. But as I perused the pasta menu, a sudden wave of shock washed over my body. My trust was washed down the drain like so much discarded Bolognese.
There is no macaroni on the menu of Romano’s Macaroni Grill.
OK, technically there is. But you won't find it in the actual macaroni & cheese, which is made in penne. Those precious, elusive elbows make a stealth appearance in little deep-fried mac & cheese balls. Nowhere else. Naming this place macaroni grill is misleading at best, downright duplicitous at worst. This would be like Taco Bell rebranding itself as Apple Bell just because it tucks some sliced up fruit in an empanada. Technically, it's true. But the truth is wrapped up in a batter-coated ball of deception.
Call me old-fashioned, but it used to mean something to name-check a food in a restaurant’s moniker. That's why KFC isn't a burger joint, Cheesecake Factory doesn't specialize in pudding, and Cracker Barrel serves crackers with its soup and has barrels outside. If I rolled into a Buffalo Wild Wings and was confronted by well-behaved chicken breasts, I'd be outraged. Just like I was at Panda Express, and just like I was at this so-called Macaroni Grill.
The thing is, this Romano fellow could have renamed the restaurant after literally ANY of the pastas on the menu and been just fine. Romano’s Spaghetti Grill? Bene! Romano’s Ravioli Grill? Mangia! Romano’s Penne Grill? Eh, actually, let’s go with Ravioli. If rebranding worked for International House of Burgers, it can work for Romano's.