Yes, you read that right: A First Time for Olive Garden. Somehow this Italian chain restaurant, which finds itself in every big or small city in the country, has evaded me for my whole life. But on Friday that all changed. I found myself at Olive Garden for the first time and I was eager to find out what all the fuss was about. It all started with bread sticks.
Of all the things I had heard about Olive Garden in my life, the bread sticks always seemed to stick in people’s minds. And with good reason. These light, fluffy bread sticks were seasoned with the perfect amount of butter, garlic and salt. Plus, they just keep coming until the real meal comes. Of course, by then you are so stuffed with these bread sticks you wish you had ordered the rest of your meal to go.
As for the main course, they all seemed to come with a soup or salad. Both of these were also unlimited and I chose the chicken and gnocchi soup. This creamy soup was the first time I had ever experienced gnocchi outside of a normal dish. I was surprised to find that those delicious potato dumplings worked great in soup, making it almost like gnocchi with a watery alfredo sauce.
And in order to get said soup, I first had to order a main dish. That dish of choice was the Five Cheese Ziti al Forno. I had a hard time making this choice because I wanted something meaty, but I couldn’t resist getting five cheeses in my belly. When the dish I arrived I added one more cheese to the mix – fresh grated parmesan. Then I went to work on devouring my dish. It was pretty delicious. The sauce was light and not overpowering, but still packed some great flavor. Although there was marinara involved, the cheese was definitely the dominant flavor. I would have liked some meat in it, but it was still a tasty meal.
So after holding out for 26 years, Olive Garden was definitely worth the wait. The unlimited bread sticks, creamy gnocchi soup and ziti were just what I would have expected from the place and although the main course didn’t blow me away, it still did what it had to do.