The Olive Garden
Why did you want to go to the Olive Garden?
Camille: Basically the advertising got to me. The way the food bounces up and down in that frying pan, it just looks so fresh, alive even. Also, my parents detest the place, so I thought it must be worth checking out. Ok, and also, I’m a snob. I thought it would be hilarious to go where the hoi polloi eat. So naturally I called my plebeian friend Tamar.
Tamar Stevens: I mean, your friend calls you up and is like, “I want to do this thing where we eat…” I think one naturally stops listening at eat. If I was reluctant, it was because of the advertising. During ads I usually do Sudoku, so I only hear them. Normally Julie Bowen’s voice wouldn’t do it for me [Bowen narrates Olive Garden commercials], but I’ve been marathoning “Ed” so I’ve been a little more open to it.
Camille: There’s no way Julie Bowen has ever eaten a breadstick.
What were your first impressions?
C: The hostess was hot. She had beautiful red lipstick. She also didn’t want to seat us immediately. I thought they would welcome us with open arms and thank us for deigning to grace them with our presence. I was disappointed with the very boring decor. It wasn’t kitschy enough! But the chairs do have wheels, so you can get up with ease after eating all that cheese.
T: Great rhyme, Camille! You know what? It was busy! There were people waiting. I think the dude who came over only could seat us because we were only two (and most people who are there, are family!) I was struck by the diversity. Ethnicities, ages, sizes – there is no one kind of person who eats at the Olive Garden.
C: I did see some prison tattoos.
T: And some toddlers. See? Eclectic.
What did you order?
C: Advertising told me to go with the three course $12.95 dinner, which you can do at any time. You get an unlimited salad or soup, entree and dessert. I went with the salad, which came in a giant salad bowl and with its own tongs. Of course they’ll also douse it in cheese for you.
T: They’ll douse anything in cheese for you. I think that’s my favorite thing about it.
C: You could be like, “My hair could use some cheese,” and they’d hook you up.
T: As you should. Cheese adds body.
C: Speaking of fat (har, har), the breadsticks disappointed me because I wanted them to be dripping in butter. I quickly ordered marinara and three cheese marinara sauce.
T: The three cheese one was poppin’! I dug it – a lot. But I was beginning to feel the trick of the “unlimited,” which is that you don’t need it! I got the soup, and not the salad. Chicken and Gnocchi. Camille feels very strongly that Gnocchi doesn’t belong in a soup. I’ll eat a good gnocchi anywhere. Which this was not. Just okay.
C: My entree, bucatini with meat sauce, had no flavor, and so they quickly provided me with Tabasco. They get points for having hot sauce ready to go.
T: My entree, the parmesan-potato-crusted chicken was a parmesan-crusted-chicken with potato chips on top. And tons of linguini. Good news? It reheated pretty well.
C: The dessert was legitimately yum. We had the mini dolcini–a sort of mousse cake thing. And don’t forget that I also had a Peroni. I wanted to be authentic with an Italian beer.
T: My tiramisu Dolcini was way better than Camille’s whatever Dolcini. I’m a great order-er! Also – no beer for me – I had a peach Bellini. I question whether it was actually alcoholic, but it was certainly tasty.
C: Yeah, I think it was virgin. You didn’t get giggly or play with your hair a lot.
T: No, that was you. Alcohol usually makes me sleepy.
What did you think of your wait person?
C: Neomi had really nice blue eyeshadow and she was great. I have no complaints.
T: Yeah – great eye shadow. It was a lot, but she pulled it off.
Would you go back?
C: Way too expensive! For my money I could have eaten at a Los Feliz bouge fest, with low lighting and vintage wallpaper, for the same price. Do Olive Gardeners not realize this?
T: I guess three courses for $12.95 is decent. And I got a second meal out of it, so I get it. It was the drinks that set us over. Sorry OG, but you are not serving me a fancy enough Bellini for that tiny thing to be worth over $7.00!
C: Ha, OG. Like “Original Gangster.”
T: Yeah, that’s why I said it. I know Original Gangster. I’m not sooooooo white.
T: Let’s not do this now.
C: It was just so bland. The food, everything. Although, if I hadn’t had that beer, that three course meal might have been worth it. I messed it up by ordering a drink and dipping sauce.
T: I liked the dipping sauce!
C: Well, we’ll get you a nice jar of Prego Sauce and call it a day.
T: Deal. While we won’t be going back, I learned I could eat at Olive Garden in 11 different countries.
C: Really? Do they have one in Italy? What about Korea? Do they have one in South Korea?
T: I don’t know. But it’s 11 countries because that’s how many languages I can say “Is there more cheese?!” And understand “Yes!”
C: Well, start translating “lobster,” because next we’re going to La Roja Langosta.
C: Don’t do that.