Once again: I had an excessive and somewhat irrational excitement about visiting the Olive Garden. I almost always have it before going to a big chain restaurant, even though I am simultaneously totally disgusted at all of the obvious things to be disgusted over. Maybe it is the marketing that leads me to believe that I will have a fun, lighthearted, hilarious, delicious time while dining there. Maybe it is the promise of copious quantities of salty fatty junky food that is outside what I usually eat but that I, a mere mortal, enjoy. Maybe it the idea of free all you can eat ____ that appeals to some past life depression survival. Who knows.
Anyhow, tonight, after driving around lost in a suburban mallhole neighborhood of Lynwood for much too long, I landed at the Olive Garden for a birthday party. The parking lot was packed.
This I knew: The Olive Garden is famous for all you can eat bread sticks and salad. They craftily started us off with the bread sticks, warm, soft, dipped in some addicting lubricant and sprinkled with salty garlic flavored crack. After everybody was nearly bursting with bread, they brought on the salad.
It consisted of all you can eat iceburg with carrots, olives, pepperoncinies, red onions, croutons, Parmesan cheese and a sharp vinegary dressing surely calculated to reduce the amount of salad that patrons can shovel in. Luckily I have an almost addicted hankering for vinegar and ate and ate long after the salad excitement had ebbed from the table.
There are plenty of things for a vegetarian to order (probably not so for a vegan... salad? spaghetti with marinara?). After a moment of curious temptation, I bypassed the deep fried lasagna bits (no joke) and ordered baked ziti. Another vegetarian ordered portobello ravioli with smoked cheese and sun dried tomato sauce.
At the end of the meal, the birthday girl (Sweet 16!) ordered a massive chocolate gelato that arrived with a chorus of Lynwood's finest apron-ed beefcakes singing her a birthday tune.
Happy Birthday A!