Southwest Florida's Most Comprehensive
Guide to Commercial Real Estate
Order Complimentary Copy :: View Back Issues :: List your commercial space!

Macaroni Grill

last edited on June 30, 2009

1macaroniIt was a stunning blow to area diners when a fire in 2005 gutted Romano’s Macaroni Grill in south Fort Myers. The fact that Italian restaurants seem to be on every block from Punta Gorda to Marco Island brought little comfort to the restaurant’s loyal patrons.

They missed what makes the restaurant so popular, namely its inimitable dishes and upbeat staff. Other than the Macaroni Grill in Naples, there was nothing else in the area quite like it. Not surprisingly, many Southwest Florida residents cheered when the rebuilt restaurant reopened for business last February, just 10 months after it burned.

What is surprising is that in the process of reconstruction, Macaroni Grill somehow managed to make a great place even better. Since reopening last February, the dining room has stayed busier than ever, as patrons discover the new and improved Macaroni Grill.

Although the changes are subtle, they are significant. Most notably, the interior now features a larger bar and a dedicated pickup area for to-go orders. Also, the actual dining area has been thoughtfully redesigned to project a more intimate atmosphere.

For example, the oversized tables that once “floated” in the spacious room have been replaced with booths and smaller seating groups. Besides creating a cozier look, the new configuration also facilitates conversation. That’s no small achievement for a restaurant with so much square footage, such high ceilings and abundant stone surfaces, all of which tend to amplify sound.

The open display kitchen remains, along with the opera-singing servers, fresh flowers, butcher paper table covers and other special touches that started with the first Macaroni Grill in Texas in 1988. Brinker International purchased the restaurant the following year and has since introduced the concept at more than 240 locations nationwide. At each and every one, diners have come to expect the same high-quality menu items, consistently prepared and professionally served.

Certainly, that has been the case in south Fort Myers, which attracts a diverse clientele at lunch and dinner. On any given day, customers run the gamut from business people to retirees to families with young children. The menus (which include a kids’ menu) are equally diverse.

Also, as with most fine Italian restaurants, there is a wine list with a wide variety of red, white and sparkling selections. In addition, there is a full liquor bar; soft drinks, coffee, espresso and specialty beverages are available, as well.

Both lunch and dinner items are listed according to category, starting with antipasti and concluding with desserts. In between, diners will find soups and salads; grilled chicken, beef and fish (Amore de la Grill); Classico Italian (mainly classic chicken and veal entrees), Brick-Oven Pizzas and more.

While the day and nighttime menus are very similar, the prices and portions are slightly smaller at lunch vs. dinner. Pasta dishes at lunch, for example, run in the $8-$10 range vs. $10-$12 at night. Also, the lunch menu includes several sandwiches ($7-$9) not available on the dinner menu.

Macaroni Grill prides itself on originality and describes its menu as traditional Italian with a twist. For example, the Stuffed Pasta category features a Twice Baked Lasagna with Meatballs containing six layers of pasta stuffed with seasoned meatballs, three cheeses and Bolognese sauce, baked in a brick oven. The Penne Rustica is another variation on a theme, featuring imported penne pasta with shrimp, grilled chicken and smoked prosciutto, baked under a golden crust of Parmesan cheese.

Incomparable food may be the main attraction, but it’s not the only reason why patrons are loyal to Macaroni Grill, as Fort Myers resident Sheila Deleacaes will attest. Several months after being diagnosed with brain cancer last year, her husband, Pat, lost his appetite. As the disease progressed, he stopped eating and Hope Hospice stepped in to care for him.

Then he remembered the anniversary dinner he and Sheila had shared six months before at Macaroni Grill, their favorite restaurant. Suddenly, his appetite returned when he recalled what he’d ordered that night: shrimp portofino (sautéed shrimp with mushrooms, pine nuts and spinach in a lemon butter sauce, served with pasta).

When Sheila called in the order and asked about a possible discount for a Hope Hospice patient, south Fort Myers manager Kevin Baker answered without hesitation. He said she could have the dish free of charge, not just that time, but every time her husband wanted it. The generous gesture was a turning point for the Deleacaes.

Pat ate the entire entree that night and Sheila has returned for the complimentary shrimp portofino on several occasions since. She considers Baker a hero, although he downplays his good deed. “It’s really nice to know I helped someone,” he said.

For more information or to download a menu, visit

(Romano’s Macaroni Grill is open daily in Market Square at 13721 S. Tamiami Trail in Ft. Myers. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Dinner hours are 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. weekdays and until 11 p.m. Friday & Saturday. Phone: 239-433-7786.)

Share and Enjoy:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • Google Bookmarks
  • MySpace

Add A Comment

  • S.S. Hookers

    Typically, waterfront dining in Southwest Florida involves a bridge, a toll or both. But with the recent opening of S.S. Hooker’s in south Fort Myers, diners have a palatable alternative that’s easy on the eyes and the wallet.

  • The Lodge

    Thoughts of downtown Fort Myers aren’t likely to prompt visions of a ski lodge and falling snow. But that’s exactly what Kearns Restaurant Group (KRG) has in mind for its newest Southwest Florida restaurant, The Lodge, now under construction on First Street.

  • LaMotta’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria

    In a town where pizza-and-pasta restaurants are plentiful, finding affordable, authentic Italian cuisine is akin to a game of chance. There’s really no way to know if you’ve spent your dining dollars on a winner or a loser until it’s too late and all too often, the house comes out ahead. If that’s the case, chances are you haven’t been to LaMotta’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria in south Fort Myers.

  • Reuben’s Smokehouse

    One thing that Arvey Krise and her son, Reuben Sliva, have discovered as restaurateurs is that home cooking never goes out of style. Case in point: Reuben’s Smokehouse, located at 11506 South Cleveland Avenue, next to Dunkin’s Diamonds in Fort Myers.

  • Rib City

    Famous for its award-winning ribs and barbecue, Rib City is gaining recognition for another reason these days: Longevity. In May, the family-owned, national chain of barbecue restaurants turned 25 — a rare distinction that places it among Southwest Florida’s restaurant elite.

  • Cape Cod Fish Company

    From the day it opened last fall, Cape Cod Fish Company (CCFC) has attracted two types of customers: (1) New Englanders who miss the clam shacks back home and (2) seafood lovers who had no idea what they’d been missing until their first visit. Either way, chef Joseph Faria’s tiny south Fort Myers restaurant has been a big hit with customers craving fresh, cold-water seafood.

  • Kearns Restaurant Group’s New Dining Destinations

    In the history of Lee County, only a handful of local restaurateurs have simultaneously owned and operated multiple restaurants in this market (think Prawnbroker Group, Paul and Craig Peden, and the Phelan family, among others). While most have evolved as a result of slow, steady growth, Kearns Restaurant Group (KRG) has burst onto the scene, fueled by innovative ideas for new restaurants and bars, and the resources to develop, build and manage them.

  • Tom, Dick & Harry’s American Grill

    Sometimes, the best indication of a great restaurant isn’t what’s on the menu, but the number of cars in the parking lot. If so, that’s a very good sign for Tom, Dick & Harry’s American Grill in south Fort Myers, where the parking lot has been near capacity since opening day several months ago.

  • Broadway Factory

    There is no shortage of frozen yogurt shops these days, particularly in Southwest Florida. Given the hot climate and consumers’ growing demand for healthful alternatives to traditional ice-cream, the appeal is understandable. But with frozen dessert franchises and locally-operated shops continuing to proliferate, one has to wonder if there’s room for even one more.

  • Square 1 Burgers & Bar

    Although the term suggests a setback of sorts, finding yourself back at Square 1 means something far different to burger lovers, namely an outstanding meal.
    Located in Page Field Commons in Fort Myers, Square 1 Burgers & Bar is unlike any other casual-dining restaurant on Florida’s west coast and far superior to a typical burger joint. Local diners know that now, but weren’t quite sure what to make of the place when it opened in 2012. Since then, its unique appeal has drawn a growing fan base.