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Olive Garden


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#1 Daniel

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Posted 27 March 2006 - 11:37 PM

Olive Garden
2 Times Square, New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212.333.3254

I have been bombarded with Olive Garden commercials.. So funny especially because of the outright stereotypes they portray.. "My cheap deago uncle did something tonight he never did, he opened his wallet" Or all these images of the old world simpleton getting his one birthday wish of remembering the old country by eating here on one of there last birthdays.. The same way they super-imposed Nat King Cole into unforgettable, I feel like they are going to do the Saturday Night Fever dinner scene into an Olive Garden commercial.. I can see Travolta, saying "watch my breadsticks"

I have been to a ton of shitty Italian Restaurants in New York.. I think its time for me to go to an Olive Garden, just so I can see what the measuring stick would be..


From the website:

"Welcome to Olive Garden’s
Culinary Institute of Tuscany.

Olive Garden’s Culinary Institute of Tuscany, located in the heart of Tuscany, Italy in a restored 11th century village, is where Olive Garden’s chefs learn the secrets of great Italian cooking - like how to combine fresh ingredients - to create authentic Italian dishes that you’ll enjoy sharing with your family and friends."

Sounds better then Rocco's to me..

Honestly speaking, its a chain, millions of people have eaten here.. This place keeps growing.. Is it that bad???? I think going here will make me a better person.. I am not going here expecting to like it, but I might be surprised.. At least I can say, I would rather go to the Olive Garden then this so and so..

Does anyone have a list of New York Italian Restaurants that have lost to the Olive Garden..

Edited by Daniel, 27 March 2006 - 11:44 PM.


#2 tommy

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 06:22 AM

... is where Olive Garden’s chefs learn the secrets of great Italian cooking - like how to combine fresh ingredients -

ancient italian secret, hmmm?
the salad is good.

#3 Trishiad

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 08:44 AM

I wouldn't mind Olive Garden so much if their prices reflected the quality. To me, it's a tiny step up from food court food, and should be a heck of a lot cheap than it is.

#4 Lyle

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:06 AM

I wouldn't mind Olive Garden so much if their prices reflected the quality. 

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But I find that true of most restaurants.
Rice pie is nice.

#5 Fat Guy

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:07 AM

Olive Garden really is as bad as everybody says it is. Just about the only palatable items are the salad and breadsticks. It's all downhill from there.

It doesn't have to be this way. Olive Garden, for whatever reason -- presumably market research supports the strategy -- chooses to serve poor-quality, artificial-tasting food that is too sweet, too salty and not good. Chains like Macaroni Grill do a much more respectable job of imitating the standard-issue Little Italy Italian-American restaurant. When traveling, I have no trouble getting a better-than-average meal at Macaroni Grill. But getting a good meal at Olive Garden, even in Times Square, is an impossibility.
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#6 I_call_the_duck

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:16 AM

Another Olive Garden commercial was "when Momma visits me from Italy, I take her straight to Olive Garden."

Umm...no. Momma would probably backslap me on the head for insulting her by taking her to such a place.

It isn’t a bad place. It just isn’t good. (Then again, I was really tired and hungry when I went there) Daniel, I wouldn't make a special trip there. But if you're in a mall and your dining options are TGIFridays or Pizza Hut, it may be worth a try. Just keep in mind that it is what you said: a chain. Otherwise it ain't worth the trip.

Edited by I_call_the_duck, 28 March 2006 - 02:43 PM.

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#7 alanamoana

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:24 AM

ummmm...i'd rather eat at TGIFridays than Olive Garden. It is that bad. I have to agree with FG on this one and say that Macaroni Grill is about 5 steps up the ladder from Olive Garden.

flaccid noodles, bland and watery sauces, iceberg salad with that scary "italian" dressing...there's really no reason to waste the calories eating there.

#8 Daniel

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:27 AM

Well, I understand that its most likely not going to be good.. But, I need to know just how terrible its going to be.. You can learn something from everything.. So maybe this will make me appreciate something more or realize something.. I am sure if I offer my friend a free meal he will come with me.. If I can convince him, I will certainly post a review..

#9 Bill Miller

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:30 AM

Jonnnie Carraba's and Johnnie Carino's are two chains that surpass Olive Garden. I don't know how widespread they are.
Cooking is chemistry, baking is alchemy.

#10 Fat Guy

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:33 AM

One meal there is useful for cultural literacy. I would just suggest that if you're going to establish a baseline you should try some of the Italian-American chains that aren't so terrible. Macaroni Grill and Maggiano's have done a nice job distilling the Little Italy restaurant into a replicable chain format.
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#11 KatieLoeb

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:44 AM

Olive Garden and Buca di Beppo have to be the absolute bottom end of the food chain, so to speak. FG is right about the overly sweetened sauces. There was a Buca di Beppo in the bottom of the complex where I parked my car at my old job. Every single day I had to stomach the smell of what I imagined to be enormous bubbling cauldrons of horrendous sugary tomato sauce cooking away and wafting all over the street. Blech! It still makes me gag every time I'm in that neighborhood. :shudder:

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#12 cakewalk

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:47 AM

I went to Olive Garden in Times Square a couple of months ago because I wanted to "see what it was all about." And I can tell you that even from my perspective (which is that of a culinary novice, at best) it was truly awful. (Note: I don't eat meat, so I'm very limited in what I can order.) My server's name was Kevin. He should live and be well, but does he have to smile all the time? And talk in the royal "we"? The salad wouldn't have been terrible, despite the iceberg lettuce, if they hadn't put that awful dressing on it; but they had, so it was. I didn't have breadsticks, but they did serve bread; I think it was the worst part of the meal. I don't know how else to describe it except to say it was what I call "fake bread." Puffy and flavorless. I had pizza, and it was simply not memorable. But I remember I didn't eat the crust, because I couldn't (and that's usually my favorite part.) I don't remember what kind of wine I ordered (except that it was a dry red), but I do remember that it tasted like wine that had been left in the bottle overnight. The place was full and everyone was eating heartily and enjoying themselves. I really couldn't understand. I still can't.

#13 petite tête de chou

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:57 AM

Daniel, I say go, because when you're there...you're family. :biggrin:
Shelley: Would you like some pie?
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#14 tommy

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 09:58 AM

maybe they've changed the dressing since my last visit (oh, about 12 years ago, on a lark even back then), but i recall the salads being lightly dressed with what seemed to be no more than oil/vinegar/oregano/s/p. it would be a shame if they've somehow screwed that up with sugar/fat/too-much-salt. although i wouldn't be surpised, as they are in the business of selling sugar and fat and too-much-salt.

i don't recall the greens being iceburg either. i like iceburg.

#15 joiei

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 10:07 AM

And to think that there is a vast spectrum of peole who LOVE the Evil Garden. Where do they reside, on your cul-de-sac and work in your office and their children go to school with your children. For these folks, Olive Garden is what defines Italian. And Olive Garden is a special dining event for lots of them. Is it just that the Evil Garden has spread it's cloak of mediocre food over the land or is the unlimited salads and breadsticks laced with some substance that brainwashes the masses into thinking that there is nothing better? Plus the fact that Olive Garden is just as bad here in Tulsa as it is in Times Square. Or are we just such food snobs that we are the ones who are missing the boat? How does one get to go to this obscure villa in Tuscany? Who is the head of the school there? I have lots of questions and too little time.
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#16 tommy

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 10:10 AM

from my perspective, most restaurants serve shit food. OG is no different. people seem to like shit food. along with food, people have horrible taste in TV, music, books, film, etc. luckily, my taste is unmatched in everything. this way, i can look down on others, smuggly.

#17 cakewalk

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 10:18 AM

maybe they've changed the dressing since my last visit (oh, about 12 years ago, on a lark even back then), but i recall the salads being lightly dressed with what seemed to be no more than oil/vinegar/oregano/s/p.  it would be a shame if they've somehow screwed that up with sugar/fat/too-much-salt.  although i wouldn't be surpised, as they are in the business of selling sugar and fat and too-much-salt. 

i don't recall the greens being iceburg either.  i like iceburg.

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It was that chemical dressing stuff. Really not nice.

#18 rich

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 10:18 AM

Poor Olive Garden - crying all the way to the bank!
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#19 tommy

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 10:29 AM

Poor Olive Garden - crying all the way to the bank!

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Darden Restaurants Inc: http://finance.yahoo...l=on&z=m&q=l&c=

not too shabby. not too shabby at all.

Edited by tommy, 28 March 2006 - 10:30 AM.


#20 CaliPoutine

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 10:51 AM

"Just about the only palatable items are the salad and breadsticks. It's all downhill from there."

I have to disagree with the above statement. The breadsticks are pasty white logs with the only discernable flavor being the salt they sprinkle on top. The salad is a bowl of boring iceberg. I'd rather eat at macaroni grill any day.

#21 markabauman

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 11:05 AM

I've only been once, when as a dutiful son I gave my mother the choice of where she wanted to eat while visiting her. I at least voted for a Carabba's, which I have not been to, but thought would have been better, but I was overruled. Regardless of the quality of the food (or lack thereof, which has been covered above), the most objectionable aspect is their implication through their advertising, etc. that their food is the real deal from an Italian point of view, where you'd enjoy and celebrate with your family, and that it represents "authentic" recipes, etc. All of that is far more distasteful than the food.
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#22 SusanGiff

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 11:32 AM

Jonnnie Carraba's and Johnnie Carino's are two chains that surpass Olive Garden.  I don't know how widespread they are.

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I don't know. I waited 30 minutes for a table at Johnny Carino's once (because I actually LIKE Chevy's and it's the same company and Johnny's was near the movie theater) and it was horrible. Worst restaurant pasta I've ever had.

#23 Diann

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 11:32 AM

My first and only time at Olive Garden was for a high school birthday party where the birthday girl had raved for days on end about how excited she was to be going to her favorite restaurant...and this is what I remember: dry cardboard chicken, disgustingly sugary/watery "tomato" sauce, spaghetti cooked to the point of mush, and in general either lack of seasoning (no discernable taste to the mushy noodles, either) or overseasoning. Plus, as was mentioned upthread, salad doused in chemical dressing and fake breadsticks.

Seriously, I don't think it's worth spending the money, the calories, or the time to go there. Not even as a sociological(?) exercise. And I'm not that picky about restaurants--I've eaten at my fair share of Bertucci's and Macaroni Grill's and Maggiano's, all of which are fine. (Perhaps you should try one of them as a baseline for American Italian food, as Steven suggested?) But Olive Garden... yuuuuuck.

The advertising doesn't help either.
Y'know, though... now that we've all chimed in and collectively wrinkled our noses (most of the posters, that is) at Olive Garden, maybe we've set your expectations so low that when and if you do go, you'll start thinking "Hey, this isn't as bad as they made it out to be..." Quick! Somebody start reverse psychologizing!

#24 NYCCHEF

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 11:32 AM

Not to get off subject....but Fat Guy mentioned the Macaroni Grill. I second his opinion. Their "Penne Rustica" cooked in a wood fired oven is excellent. Then again, what doesnt taste good in a wood fired oven.

#25 Sneakeater

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 11:43 AM

And to think that there is a vast spectrum of peole who LOVE the Evil Garden.  Where do they reside,  on your cul-de-sac and work in your office and their children go to school with your children.

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Maybe it's different elsewhere, but here in New York it's really a class thing.

I don't live in a cul-de-sac, but I can assure you that nobody in my building would go to (or at least admit to going to) Olive Garden. And if anybody in my office would, it certainly wouldn't be anyone on the professional staff.

That's not to say that all these people are foodies, much less that they all have equisite taste. Just that they'd have different class-specific bad places to go to.

Edited by Sneakeater, 28 March 2006 - 11:47 AM.


#26 Fat Guy

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 11:46 AM

Here's the deal with the salad and breadsticks: both have to be ordered dry. With the salad, ask for oil and vinegar on the side. With the breadsticks, ask them not to spread any of that artificial-tasting crap topping on them (this not only gets you better breadsticks but also forces them to be baked to order). It's a weak meal, to be sure, but if you happen to be in strip-mall purgatory and it's the only option because it's Sunday and Chick-Fil-A is closed, you can survive on salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden.
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#27 rich

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 11:48 AM

And to think that there is a vast spectrum of peole who LOVE the Evil Garden.  Where do they reside,  on your cul-de-sac and work in your office and their children go to school with your children.

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Maybe it's different elsewhere, but here in New York it's really a class thing.

I don't live in a cul-de-sac, but I can assure you that nobody in my building would go to (or at least admit to going to) Olive Garden. And if anybody in my office would, it certainly wouldn't be anyone in a professional position.

That's not to say that all these people are foodies, much less that they all have equisite taste. Just that they'd have different class-specific bad places to go to.

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This reminds me of the Yogi Berra quote on a (in)famous midtown restaurant. "No one goes there anymore, it's too crowded."
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#28 jwjojo

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 12:36 PM

Grandma took me to the Olive Garden in Florida at least 15 years ago. I had no idea it was a chain restaurant. I thought it was a neighborhood Italian joint. Did it suck? Even then, prior to my now refined tastes :raz: it sucked. I can remember asking my granddmother why she chose this piece of crap place, and her insistance that it was close to home and decent. Mediocrity wins in the good ol' USA.

#29 phaelon56

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 01:18 PM

I at least voted for a Carabba's, which I have not been to, but thought would have been better...

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And you would have been correct. Having in the past dated several different women who were quite enthused about OG (yes it is a tragic fact well known here in the world of eGullet) I've been exposed to it on numerous occasions. And I have yet to ever try a single entree I coudl safely recommend to any reasonably discerning diner.

But I've eaten at both Carraba's and Macaroni Grill and had decent enoughh meals at both.

#30 Sneakeater

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Posted 28 March 2006 - 01:33 PM

This is gonna sound snobby, but I don't mean it that way. And maybe we're existing in different worlds (I'm a nearly 50-year-old lawyer). But how do you come to meet people who are enthused about OG? I just never run into people like that. (After some expensive dates, I almost wish I would meet someone who'd be satisfied with OG.) (Then I wake up.)

(See note in prior post about this doesn't mean the people I know all have good taste or anything.)