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Artichoke

Marcella Hazan Eats at Olive Grden

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The Hazans say the food that they have tasted bears little resemblance to authentic Italian cuisine.
and, on occasion, even food ... :shock: the pasta is usually gummy and the meat sauces are even more atrocious ...

Italian, but only if you enjoy tasting the sides of Venice's Grand Canal ...

great article! confirms my worst suspicions .. aren't the OG's owned by a corporation like Pepsi or something?? :rolleyes:


Edited by Gifted Gourmet (log)

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aren't the OG's owned by a corporation like Pepsi or something??

Olive Garden is owned by Darden Restaurants, Inc. They also own Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones BBQ and one Seasons 52 restaurant. The company's stock performance has suffered due to very poor same-store sales trends at Red Lobster, which has one of the worst sales trends in the entire casual dining industry. Oddly enough Olive Garden's sales trends have been improving. I have never been to one and have no desire to try, but the restaurant does maintain a solid customer base.

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This piece is, in its own way, brilliant--holding the Olive Garden "experience" up to the eyes of the Hazans, who are unusually rigorous in their insistence on authenticity.

What's more, it's balanced, and you come away with some real appreciation of what's wrong and right about Olive Garden.

I wish more food journalism was this good--and this from what used to be called "McPaper."

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This  piece is,  in its own way, brilliant--holding the Olive Garden "experience" up to the eyes of the Hazans, who are unusually rigorous in their insistence on authenticity.

What's more, it's balanced, and you come away with some real appreciation of what's wrong and right about Olive Garden.

I wish more food journalism was this good--and this from what used to be called "McPaper."

I agree on the quality of the article. It's easy to just shit all over OG (if this thread goes on for any length, we'll see plenty of that); harder, and more interesting, to take and evaluate them at face value.

In particular, I'm oddly impressed by this final paragraph:

But Marcella has questions. "There are 60,000 recipes in Italy. Why do they have to invent new ones like Lobster Spaghetti?" Olive Garden must "guide and teach" its customers, she says, delighting them with surprises rather than giving in to the tried-and-true.

How... deeply uncynical on Marcella's part. But it's a good question: how would OG do if it emphasized authentic Italian recipes?

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Olive Garden must "guide and teach" its customers, she says, delighting them with surprises rather than giving in to the tried-and-true.

That's always been the key to mass-market success in America. Not. :hmmm:

I've never been to an OG, but it sounds like they're so off the mark that even if your requirements were less stringent, expecting only something vaguely 3rd-generation Italian American, you are probably still going to be disappointed. And yet so many aren't, it appears.

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Everyone looks glum. "I must console myself," Marcella says. She orders a Jack Daniel's.

'Nuf Said :wink:

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I've never been to an OG, but it sounds like they're so off the mark that even if your requirements were less stringent, expecting only something vaguely 3rd-generation Italian American, you are probably still going to be disappointed. And yet so many aren't, it appears.

You're right that it has a lot to do with expectations. I've been to OG once, and I went there with absolutely NO expectation at all of getting authentic Italian food. I went there because I've already tried Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesday, Outback Steakhouse, so what the heck?

I ordered their t-bone steak (I think that's what they called it) - hardly something you would order at an Italian restaurant, and was pleasantly surprised. The steak was flavorfully seasoned, and cooked to the doneness I requested. The oven-roasted potato pieces that came with it were buttery, crisp on the outside and had a fluffly center. Very competently done. No complaints at all.

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the author's purpose seems silly. why go to OG to see if it's really an "authentic experience" (even though they might claim that on commercials). we all know it isn't. she knew. hell, 99% of "italian" restaurants in the states don't offer an "authentic experience".

as an aside, i'm pretty sure they actually do send their chefs to italy for training. i know Macaroni Grill does. i know this because i was in the Hard Rock in Rome (don't ask), and spent a good amount of time hanging out with a bunch of Macaroni Grill chefs who were there training. they were really soaking up that italian culture. :laugh:

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i know Macaroni Grill does..... Macaroni Grill chefs who were there training. they were really soaking up that italian culture. :laugh:

In Atlanta, there is a brand new Olive Garden almost directly across the street from Romano's Macaroni Grill ... and I thought to myself, "Why bother?" There is such a world of difference between the two in all respects ... :blink:

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hell, 99% of "italian" restaurants in the states don't offer an "authentic experience".

Point well taken but OG really pushes the notion in their advertising that they offer a "real Italian experience" vs. Italian-American. My GF loves the place because she orders the same dish every tme and it's predictable. I always enjoy the salad and warm garlic breadsticks but have yet to find an entree I like enough to order it twice.

Red Lobster is a different story - I've been on occasion with friends or co-workers who insisted on going there. I stuck to the broiled seafood and whatever I got always tasted the same - there's some sort of institutional seasoning blend / butter that prevails over the taste fo the seafood. Wierd. I think their flagging performance is due to the fact that enough people have caught on to the fact that fish is supposed to taste like fish.

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Point well taken but OG really pushes the notion in their advertising that they offer a "real Italian experience" vs. Italian-American.

if experts were to pick apart every claim of authenticity, they'd be very busy people. it's pretty much a standard construct in advertising. OG probably appears to "really push it" because they make enough money to have commercials and billboards and radio time. and good salad, too.

you're right about the menus of MG and OG. the same type of thing. although i'm not ashamed to submit that i like MG slightly more than OG. :biggrin:


Edited by tommy (log)

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Red Lobster is a different story - I've been on occasion with friends or co-workers who insisted on going there. I stuck to the broiled seafood and whatever I got always tasted the same - there's some sort of institutional seasoning blend / butter that prevails over the taste fo the seafood. Wierd. I think their flagging performance is due to the fact that enough people have caught on to the fact that fish is supposed to taste like fish.

Even wierder is that I know a lot of people here in Nashville who consider Red Lobster to be a fancy restaurant for special occasions. One reported to me that he went there on prom night (accidentally) and was quoted a two hour table wait... and was willing to wait that long.

I don't get it!! I have never been, but if I wanted steak 'n' lobster I think I could name at least 10 places that could do it a lot better for around the same price. Not the least of which would be my kitchen.

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"Marcella looks distraught, unable to go on."

I wonder what USA Today readers (who are presumably also the same folks who are loyal OG customers) think about a chef's response to their restaurant!

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Undercooked beans "have the taste of grass," Marcella explains, shaking her head. "I don't know why they do it. It's all wrong."

But that's how so many damn restaurants seem to think we like them! :rolleyes:

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I am delighted by that article. I had expected to see her kissing corporate ass, since it's in USA Today. Hooray for Marcella for telling the truth about the Olive Garden.

She should have toured the kitchen and pointed out all the crap in cans from Sysco, et al. That's why the food tastes like it does. Or, as I say about McDonald's: "It's not food, it's caloric entertainment."

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This isn't just a case of "big corporation = bad food". There are thousands of local Italian places in strip malls around the country run by 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation Italians (or Greeks) that serve food much worse than Olive Garden. Its not very good, but it could be worse.

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I am delighted by that article. I had expected to see her kissing corporate ass, since it's in USA Today. Hooray for Marcella for telling the truth about the Olive Garden.

She should have toured the kitchen and pointed out all the crap in cans from Sysco, et al. That's why the food tastes like it does. Or, as I say about McDonald's: "It's not food, it's caloric entertainment."

I don't think Marcella does this, in the corporate or any other sense. And to be fair to USA Today, they were certainly aware that she doesn't.

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What a searing expose on the shocking abuse of the elderly that goes on in this country.

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SARASOTA, Fla. — What's wrong with Italian cooking in America?

Too much garlic, too little salt and much of what's on the menu at Olive Garden, says Marcella Hazan.

Maybe she's been quoted out of context, but too little salt is bad? :huh::unsure:

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SARASOTA, Fla. — What's wrong with Italian cooking in America?

Too much garlic, too little salt and much of what's on the menu at Olive Garden, says Marcella Hazan.

Maybe she's been quoted out of context, but too little salt is bad? :huh::unsure:

if more salt is generally used in italian cooking, then yes, it's more proof that OG isn't authentic. as if she needed more proof. :rolleyes:

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...too little salt is bad? :huh::unsure:

It's the worst! Proper seasoning is everything in cooking, I've decided.

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Just to note, this article is dated 12/17/00...

(Artichoke, you're welcome :smile: , by the way...)

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