Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano stirs up the food pot. Chef-partner Fernando Abundez is at the helm of the Maple Grove location. Daily, he features a selection of new shining culinary stars from a recipe database culled over 18 years. Although cooking methods are derived from all across the country, the dishes share a common thread. Biaggi’s chefs submit favorite Italian recipes to the corporate division. Mike White, director of culinary operations, decides what recipes go into the database. A formidable task—scouring all the innovative ways to prepare everything from seafood to pasta, appetizers to salads to sandwiches. It’s a full-course Italian dream.
The criteria for making the grade? Recipes must be “structured to fit our format, Italian-American in concept and personality,” White says. “We certainly pay attention to Italian traditions,” he explains, “but pay a lot more attention to our guests.” Food preferences can vary from market to market among Biaggi’s 20 restaurants. A popular salad in Mississippi might get a different reception here.
In general, Biaggi’s dishes have more sauce than their Italian counterparts. In a nod to American tastes, Biaggi’s obliges. A flavorful and lively menu boasts 100 items. There’s something for every taste. Still, Biaggi’s shakes things up. Several specials run every month. “We’ve been around since 1998; we have a lot of recipes,” says managing partner Gary Chanen. While the variety keeps things fresh, change comes with a price. “You’re always going to have a guest that says, ‘Why’d you take that off the menu?’” Chanen says.
A big menu with big portions of food keeps customers coming back. Characteristically large portions are one way Biaggi’s veers from Old Italy where food is eaten in smaller amounts over a series of several courses. That’s good news for customers. The dining dollar goes far here, at no expense to fresh taste.
“We don’t take shortcuts,” Chanen says.
Labor intensive cooking methods heighten simple Mediterranean flavors. “We make a ton of the menu from scratch and don’t compromise on quality,” he says. “There’s nothing that I’m embarrassed to serve.”
When it comes to classic Italian entrees, Midwesterners do like their chicken. One of the top-selling dishes is the tender breaded and fried chicken Parmesan. As for pasta, the No. 1 dish is fettucine with lobster. The black noodled seafood-wild mushroom toss is a mainstay.
Chanen’s reason for Italian food’s popularity: “It’s good for the soul,” he says.
Maple Grove has a seasoned staff. “[Chef] Abundez has been with me for 12 years,” Chanen says. Customers notice the breadth of experience in how the location works. “It’s a flawless operation and something you can count on,” White says.
And, it seems Maple Grove residents can indeed count on Biaggi’s. “We just signed a 10-year lease,” Chanen says. “We’re not going anywhere soon.”
Italian Food Days
There’s always a reason to go Italian. Here, Biaggi’s shares food days with an Italian bent—proof that good eating is always in season. Mangiamo! (Let’s eat!)
National Spaghetti Day, January 4: “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.”—Sophia Loren.
National Cheese Lovers Day, January 20: Smile and say, “It’s national cheese lovers day” then pass the Parmesan, please.
National Pizza Pie Day, February 9: Slice up the pizza and enjoy. Do a world tour with Sicilian, Neapolitan, and New York or Chicago style.
National Drink Wine Day, February 18: That deserves a toast!
Happy National Wine Day, May 25: Isn’t any day a little more happy with a glass of wine?
National Donut Day, June 2 and November 5: Indulge sweet cravings with an Italian bomboloni (doughnut). At Biaggi’s this means a douse of cinnamon-sugar and salted caramel sauce over vanilla bean gelato—plus the bomboloni.
National Lasagna Day, July 29: Cheese and red sauced pasta gets better by the layer.
National Linguini Day, September 15: While a designated day is nice, Biaggi’s famed fettuccini with lobster is always available.
World Pasta Day, October 17: However, when it comes to Italian food, every day is a celebration of pasta.