Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Olive Garden- Middletown, NY

Endless salad bowl
I don't usually do chain restaurants, and I haven't been to one in a very long time. It's been even longer since I've been to an Olive Garden. What brought us in this time was the special wherein one orders and entree for $12.99 and gets a second entree to take home. You also get either an unending salad bowl or soup with breadsticks. Add to that the fact that we used to really like Olive Garden and went there often with the kids when they were younger. 

On entering we were seated immediately, there were plenty of empty tables, and given menus. I looked around and observed that the decor looked a bit stale and dated. It was clean, except for the silverware which we asked to be replaced, but tired looking. Our waitress was friendly, and efficient. We looked over the menus and decided to go with the specials. 

Five-cheese ziti al forno

I ordered the five-cheese ziti al forno for my entree and the smoked chicken with roasted peppers over pasta to take with me. The Ziti was a bit undercooked for me, I do like al dente but this was a tad underdone to even call it that. The cheese and sauce was clumpy and bland. It actually tasted as if someone had opened a frozen dinner, plopped it on a plate, and popped it in a microwave. The chicken dish was my lunch the next day and it was marginally better, but still like a frozen dish. Just a frozen dish from a better manufacturer. 

Mezzaluna ravioli

Teresa got the mezzaluna ravioli, one to eat there and one to take home. I tasted it and it was better than my ziti, but not by much. 

My overall impressions? The service was good and the prices of the specials dirt cheap. The ambiance was faded and tired, yet reasonably clean. The food, however, was lacking. I would call it pedestrian, but that would be pretentious. Perhaps it could be better described as a sanitized and Americanized version of Italian food created to be non-offensive and safe for the weak of palate. Or perhaps simply what many Americans consider to be Italian food, not bad, but not really good either. You will leave full, but not satisfied.

Now I remember why we avoid chain restaurants. 


  1. Chris, many employees report that a ton of their food is, in fact, frozen and brought in on a truck.

    Well observed, sir

  2. Thank you Pete. I did some research after our visit and came across quite a few threads along that vein. There is another large chain, who shall remain nameless for now, that does this. I heard that from a former employee that I know. It reminds me of the scene in European Vacation where they are taking food from the microwave and sticking a French flag on it.