I am no Marilyn Haggerty, so when Olive Garden reached out to see if I would be interested in reviewing their new menu, I was intimidated at first. I also almost turned them down because I had never reviewed a major chain restaurant before.
But then I began to think about it. If I am going to be honest with my readers, they should know that I don’t cook every night. There are even times when 2 weeks will go by without me cooking a decent meal. And while we are being honest, during those 2 weeks I am not eating at all the newest local restaurants I can find.
That’s right. I order pizza from Domino’s at times. I get breakfast at McDonald’s more than occasionally (BTW – The egg white delight, sub bacon for ham, no butter, throw away the top part of the muffin, is my perfect breakfast). And yes, when I don’t feel like thinking about where to go, or if we have kids with us, I head into chain restaurants too.
So yes Olive Garden, I will do a review, because if I am being honest, your salad of iceberg lettuce and that dressing that comes to me in my dreams, well I love that salad. And in case you didn’t know, you get unlimited soup or salad with any meal.
We started off our meal with a couple of drinks. The mango martini ($8.99) and the Roscato Berry Cocktail ($6.49). Both drinks were yummy, if not exceedingly sweet. The mango martini also lacked actual alcohol. For the second round we ordered a straight Absolut and Cranberry…and they made up for the missing alcohol with this one.
Next we tried the Chicken Meatballs ($5) from Olive Garden’s new small plates menu. I was very pleasantly surprised by these! The texture was right-on, and they were served in a slightly spicy marinara that worked well with them. I would definitely get these again.
For our main courses, I ordered one of their new dishes, the Grilled Chicken Toscano ($14.99), which was described as “Grilled chicken breasts with a sweet red wine demi-glace. Served with fresh spinach and parmesan risotto with tomatoes.” The chicken was well cooked, and the spinach gave it a nice touch of lightness. But sadly the risotto failed for me. The texture was that of overcooked rice, and the fresh tomatoes mixed in just clashed.
We also ordered the Chicken Parmigiana ($15.49) which was exactly what you want from this classic dish. The chicken was juicy with a crispy, flavorful coating, and it wasn’t loaded with 2 lbs of pasta, but just enough to accompany the chicken. This is absolutely a well executed chicken parm.
By this point we were completely stuffed, but couldn’t resist the Dolcini ($7.49), aka the dessert sampler. For our 3 options, we chose the Chocolate Mousse, Amaretto Tiramisu and Dark Chocolate Caramel Cream. They were the perfect size to just get a taste of something sweet to end the meal.
It’s nice to see a large-scale chain restaurant try some new things out. There is no doubt that the classics are what they do best, but it is always good to have some options. And Olive Garden salad. It is always good to have Olive Garden salad….
Disclaimer: A portion of our meal was provided free of charge. As always, all opinions are my own.