The setting- a hot, steamy July 4th and our plans to attend an outdoor picnic have been canceled. Its almost 8PM and I'm too hot and bothered to cook anything. Off we go on a road trip looking for something open this late on the Holiday.
The destination- The Olive Garden to our rescue. We are greeted courteously by not 1 but 2 young ladies at the door who swing the doors open wide to allow my handicapped MIL easy entrance. Result- I give big points for 1st impression! We choose a table and not a booth and we are seated immediately. The A/C is perfect, cooling us down just enough to enjoy our meal, yet not freeze us. Result- I give more points for having such a comfortable environment.
The Eats- Olive Garden is offering a 2 for $25.00 deal. I order a Chicken and Pasta and the SO orders an Eggplant Parmesan. We decide on 2 appetizers and salad. The portions of each appetizer and entrée were very fair, the presentations were excellent, the sauces were excellent, the salad was crisp and cold and not drowned in dressing (and free refills when requested), and the bread was good too. One appetizer of note was the toasted beef and pork ravioli. My chicken entrée was tender and tasty, with a cream sauce that was light and flavorful. My wife's eggplant looked great and she would not share, which is always the telltale that she loves her meal (and that she is hungry). My MIL ordered a special of gnocchi in a red sauce that was perfect for her.
Surprise! We were surprised by how much we enjoyed our cocktails. My Mango Martini ($8.99) was a decent size martini glass full of a concoction that was the perfect cool off from the heat and humidity of the day. I also splurged on a 667 Pinot Noir, which was $11.50 for a 9 oz quartino (a cute carafe which holds a big mouthful more than a 6 oz glass, which they sell for $8.50). They let you sample the wine before you buy at this Olive Garden, which I think is a great marketing move. My wife enjoyed a Moscato Citrus Berry Splash Cocktail ($6.39) and I have been trying to duplicate the recipe ever since.
The Bill- We passed on desserts and our bill still topped $80.00 plus tip and this was despite our use of the 2 for $25.00 deal. Drinking is expensive and evil, true, but keep this in mind when considering the price points that TA uses.
The Outcome- We will be back. Say what you want about restaurant chains, I was much obliged to Olive Garden for being open on July 4th, when my usual neighborhood haunts were not. And they weren't just open, they were staffed by employees who smiled and were cheerful. And they served up some very tasty Italian Eats. Good job, Olive Garden! I have tallied up my points and you get 4 stars. I reserve that 5th star until we meet again.
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