Last week, I had the opportunity to take my fiancée, Kelly, to Olive Garden to experience their never-ending pasta bowl, which ends on the 22nd. Since we went on a Tuesday evening, we were able to miss most of the crowds. On a busy weekend there can easily be 45 minutes to an hour before getting in, so it was really nice to not wait to get a table. All the wait staff and hosts wore radio earpieces for quick communication to keep things moving efficiently and reduce delays in any customer requests. It was all really nice to see.
Inside, the Olive Garden has a very nice, Italian-themed décor, all clean and well kept. The light colouring provides a calm and relaxing feel, while the scenic pictures and decorative plates on the wall draw the eye without it being too busy. We received a nice sample of red wine, which was light, tasty, not too bitter or too sweet and did not carry too strong an aftertaste. Add to that some smooth jazz quietly playing in the background and it is a nice romantic atmosphere without being overly fancy.
The main draw right now is the all-youcan-eat pasta. Where a regular entrée will cost you $16-$25 (which is still reasonable), the base meal is only $12 each. Considering that comes with unlimited soup or salad and unlimited bread sticks, you certainly can get your fill. So make sure you bring with you a healthy appetite. Beware of filling up too much on the appetizers. Keep particular care for how much you drink before the meal arrives. Water will take up space better served by pasta and other drinks can get pricey!
If you do happen to be going with others, it might be a good idea to order different pastas and different sauces. That allows everyone to sample all the flavours on the first serving. Then you know what your favourite taste is when you order your refill. The refills are about half the size, but you can order half-andhalf for the first serving. This allows better pacing and fewer leftovers.
I started my dinner with a meat sauce on rigatoni. It was well cooked, with a touch of spice but nothing too excessive. The flavour gives way to the ground beef in the meat sauce, so it was very well balanced with no single distinct flavour. Kelly started with half of a new chicken pomodoro and half of a five cheese marinara on top of angel hair noodles.
The pasta was good but cooked a little beyond al dente (a measure of how well the pasta is cooked, being firm to the bite), which we normally prefer. The pomodoro was a bit basic, but what really makes it are the sizable chicken pieces which had a subtle sweetness to them – probably why I chose that for my refill. The cheese marinara was pretty amazing, being super creamy and tangy. We also got the new pesto alfredo for a refill, which happily had a noticeable basil taste in a thick sauce that stuck well to the noodles. This is definitely a restaurant I would recommend for pasta lovers. Not truly authentic Italian or super fancy but a nice step up from fast food.