Monday, January 23, 2006

One Man's Yum is Another Man's Yuk

The birthday girl Maria wanted to go out to dinner for her 18th birthday. She wanted her brother, her mom and me to go along. As guest of honor,she got to choose the restaurant and decided upon Olive Garden. "There are a number of good Italian places in Columbia", moaned Daniel, "but she decided on Olive Garden. She thinks if it is advertised on TV, then it is good." It can't be that bad I thought. It had been a while since I had been there so I was looking forward to seeing what was new and how it had changed, if any.

The parking lot was full for a Sunday eve, but we got right in. Either everyone came in separate cars(could be, we had 3 ourselves)or there are a lot of employees.

Daniel and I had to wait for the ladies to arrive so we ordered wine from a large but undistinguished list. Appetizer was in order, but alas no real antipasta of sliced meats, vegetables, cheese and such was available. We chose a pricey $8.25 sampler of calamari, stuffed mushrooms and fried mozzarella. It took forever to come with some excuse that the mushrooms were started but not broiling or something. I was disappointed in the whole affair. A small serving of fried calamari, 2-3 mozzarella sticks and some mushrooms.

The main thing I remember about the place was their salad and bread sticks. The salad was a big disappointment, Lori Anne claimed hers had no dressing at all. It was served in a big bowl so I have to assume it was all at the bottom. The bread sticks were ok, but too soft and doughy.

I looked at the menu and found nothing I wanted. So I was last to order. "I see nothing I want", I moaned. "What are you looking for, steak, hamburger??" our over eager waiter asked, thinking I was some sort of slack-jawed oaf. "No, some real Italian, where is the veal piccatta or lemonata? Any interesting pastas?" I chose salmon.

Daniel ordered some chicken dish and got something else, Lori Anne had the crab and shrimp ravioli which like everything else was pricey and not large in portion. My salmon was uninspired and overcooked. Only the lemon from the appetizer plate helped to make it palatable. My salmon came with a few broccoli florets and some red bell pepper. It was dull.

The rest of the meal was not worth mentioning. Even taking off the wrong chicken order, the bill was still $75 for 4. Not bad, really, but I expected more for that.

I'll continue to avoid the place. If you want a better pasta place in a "family" chain restaurant setting, "Pasta House Company" is a lot better.

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