Monday, March 22, 2010

The Olive Garden

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.
Slide on in big boy

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.

Good crust on the baked ziti

Food came and I must admit appealed to the part of me evolved for a simpler time. Plenty of salt. Plenty of starch. Plenty of fat. And with the addition of red pepper flakes (special request), plenty of spice. It wasn't exactly complex or healthful or inexpensive, but I wasn't expecting it to be.

Lots of good smoky flavor in the ravioli 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!

Olive Garden on Urbanspoon


T. said...

I love your take on these odious chain restaurants!

Tofu Hunter said...

Definitely have a love/hate going!

Jennifer said...

I feel the same way about OG. Probably cause I can only handle it maybe once a year, then feel like binging on salad and veggies for a week after. There's just something about chain food that makes me feel unhealthy, like there's no way the food that came out of the kitchen is in any way unprocessed.

BTW, the vegetarian minestrone is fairly good at OG. I regularly get that in place of the salad, cause salad to me is not a big pile of iceburg lettuce. Spring for some spinach or mesclun already!

Tofu Hunter said...

Good tip about the minestrone. I hear you about the salad, ice burg really doesn't make much sense. But still I enjoy an ice burg salad, maybe just because it is usually a vessel for dressing and cheese.