Monday, April 20, 2009

Olive Garden, over a decade later

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The last time I remember going to an Olive Garden was in high school. Back then the place was the sh*t, particularly because of their unlimited salad and breadsticks. When school let out we'd head over to the Times Square location, excited about going for a meal in a real restaurant. Free, unlimited salad and breadsticks paired with a bottomless pasta promotion: Olive Garden offered the finest bang for the buck my friends and I could imagine.
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Over ten years later, in the Fort Collins location of the chain, nothing about Olive Garden has changed much. The salad and breadsticks are still free and unlimited, and they taste just as I remember—a tasty vinaigrette over bagged greens and croutons, and hot, squishy, salty buttered bread reminiscent of soft hot dog buns.
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SD and I opted to split a full order of the Seafood Portofino, an assortment of shellfish and seafood with mushrooms in a garlic-butter wine sauce over linguine, so what you see in the bowl above, and in the top picture, is only half of the full entree. (I appreciated that they gave us each portion in a nicely presented separate bowl.) While it tasted pretty good, the pasta was so rich we found that sharing one entree was a great idea—the amount we received was huge. NH, who went for a full entree of Chicken Alfredo, ended up full only midway through his plate.
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Being sensible creatures, we split our dessert, too. The Chocolate Ciottoli Cake ("dark chocolate cobblestone cake chunks layered with chocolate mousse and a soft brownie topped with hazelnuts") was too heavy and too sweet, and tasted like the frozen and thawed cake it was. But I hadn't expected any different, and maybe that's the key to eating in restaurants like these—embrace these chains for their consistency, average level of tastiness, and huge portions; don't wish you were at Otto or Max. You'll end up okay.

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