Friday, February 21, 2020

Olive Gardens Are Cutting Edge Italian?

There are 840 Olive Garden restaurants in the United States and their corporate cousin, Red Lobster, has 749.  Both made the news when then-First Lady Michelle Obama went after them for "fattening up a whole generation of kids" or words to that effect with their endless pasta and unlimited bread sticks in Gardens and cheddar cheese biscuits at Red Lobsters.  Screams of anguish could be heard all across our fair country.  One might be justified in thinking it was similar to snatching a newborn from the mother's arms and beating feet.

Darden, the parent company quickly cut the amount of sodium and fat in both food items.   Today, all of the menu items in addition to price, show the calorie count for each dish.

I think I've eaten once at an Olive Garden, now hidden in memory by the passing of time.  The reason for last night's venture through their doors was that Dee is having a birthday and as the Birthday Person, he got to choose the restaurant.  Frankly, I thought it was a little peculiar of him; I don't associate chain restaurants with a man who likes Dominique's Kitchen (French.)    But birthdays rule.
What was certainly different to the four of us (Mouton joined us for this dinner) started with drinks.  My Bloody Mary came with the requisite garnish - in this case, slices of pepperoni alternating with olives on the spear.  Pepperoni marinated in Bloody Mary mix is quite tasty and the very large glass lasted me all the way through dinner.

Another surprise in Appetizers was fried mozzarella sticks garnished with Alfredo sauce.  We all know they usually come with marinara sauce.  There was a cup of it but on the side.  Thinnish squares made for a crispier crust it seemed and the Alfredo sauce was a welcome change.  Not crazy about cooked tomatoes.

Also apparently always offered was a salad for the table, to arrive before our various entrees.  Billed as "house salad" it was pretty much fresh lettuce and tomatoes in Italian dressing.  Refreshed our palates quite nicely.

And what of the famed bread sticks?  They looked like hot dog buns that had been on a diet with a great deal more texture that a hot dog bun ever dreamed of.  They come as an appetizer and they are ordered by the diner, not just issued to the table.   And they aren't free either.

All in all, the food was good; the service excellent (the grated cheese lady was right there) and the prices reasonable.  But one visit was enough.  I like Charlie's, a New York Joint and/or Spumoni better for authentic Italian foods.  The Olive Gardens seem to cater to people who've never been any closer to Italy than an Italian restaurant!  In Texas.  

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