Yes, I’ve been eating so much pasta that I’ve gotten behind in my blogging. Due to some urging by my best friend Anna, I’ve decided to get my butt in gear and REALLY eat some pasta. That meant trips on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday this week. I’m now officially a ‘regular’ as I’ve had two different waitresses welcome me back and ask me where my giant book is. (It’s always there, ladies… looming… like a dark thunderstorm.)
The food continues to be good and I haven’t had any strange service incidents to talk about. In fact, last night the awesome waitress Marilyn straight up asked me at the end of the meal, “Do you want me to pack you an extra plate and some breadsticks to go?” (Yes, she got an extra tip for that.) I had to order a glass of wine (HAD to, mind you…) so that she could run my credit card and I could leave her a tip. This cashless society works *most* of the time. The paranoid in me just thinks I need to carry more cash. If only the bank could dispense it right through my monitor. The ATM drive through is SO inconvenient. I actually have to put my foot on the brake, roll down the window, and sort of ‘lean’ a little. *tiring*
Yes, you read right!!! Isn’t that exciting? 😉 After 3 visits of overflow, I was seated in the main dining room on Tuesday. My waitress Katie was the first person who hasn’t acted surprised when I pulled out the pasta pass, and the service was the standard ‘good’. (Not amazing, but good.)
I had water and whole wheat linguini with the spicy meat sauce and meatballs. (I know, that’s a lot of meat, but that 3 meat sauce is REALLY good.) There was plenty of sauce on the pasta and I ended up finishing the entire large plate. That’s the first time I’ve done that, so my relatives who are betting on weight gain might be cheering. I also ordered a bowl of shrimp pasta and a box, to take home for Mom to enjoy.
After dinner I splurged and had the almond chocolate amour. Seriously, these things have ZERO alcohol in them. That’s probably why I liked them so much when I was in my mid-20s. I had just started drinking then so I wasn’t used to the taste of liquor. Now I’m thinking I should bring my own flask and spike the drink. Oh well, at least I can drive home safely. I didn’t finish it anyway. They are HUGE and sweet. (I think I prefer the Tiramisu drink anyway.)
So yeah, no real events to discuss other than an upcoming interview with a Florida newspaper reporter. That should be exciting. I will probably be heading to the O.G. (as we insiders call it) again tonight. That brings my total down to $20/meal. I’m *almost* at the break even point. Must… eat… more… pasta!
Oh, and props to Darden, the corporate owner of Olive Garden. They were really responsive to my concerns and have contacted me a couple times.
I decided to jet out of a Thursday night get-together early so I could grab some dinner before running home. Getting seated at the La Mesa location was fast, as usual, though I got stuck in the far back “overflow” room again. (It lacks the ambiance of the main restaurant.) I did have the choice of sitting all alone in the bar, but it was kind of cold up front.
Once I was seated it took 11 minutes for the waitress to come over and acknowledge me and even then it was an “I’ll be right with you” which took about another 5 minutes. So 15 minutes in she showed up and asked if she could bring me a drink. I asked for water (trying to cut down the calories a little) and said I was ready to order. I got “the picture on the menu, which was their spiral pasta with a “premium” mushroom alfredo sauce and their special breaded chicken pieces. I also opted for soup this time. (The waitress needs a little training on how to pronounce gnocchi)
The soup came in a reasonable time along with the water. Then the waitress disappeared for an eternity. It was probably 20 minutes before she came by again only THEN realizing that she hadn’t brought any breadsticks. Those came a few minutes later with my pasta. The food was very good. As with the first time, I was full after eating about 50% of the bowl. I really wish they would cut down on the portion size of the initial serving. The only way to take advantage of the “never ending” part is to either get very fat or waste a lot of food.
Then she disappeared again for another 25 minutes. She seemed a little perturbed when I caught her eye and asked her to bring me spaghetti with meatballs. When it came, after about 10 minutes, it was a small bowl with a single meatball. I was going to ask her to just box it up for me but she was gone before I could say anything.
And… that was the last time I saw her. After sitting there for a good 30 minutes I finally just told another waitress that I needed to go. She saw I had the pasta pass and asked if I needed the receipt. I told her ‘no’ and she very kindly helped me box up the food. I mentioned that my waitress had disappeared and she said the woman had gone on a 10 minute break.
So… not the best experience. I really should have asked to speak to the manager. Next time I will. This was the exact opposite of my first visit. That time the waiter was friendly and almost TOO attentive, stopping by every few minutes to see if he could bring me something else. I’m going to chalk this one up to “She’s just not a good waitress” since I’ve never experienced (lack of) service like that at this chain. I certainly didn’t leave a tip this time. (I almost handed the waitress who helped me bag my food a dollar but that seemed lame so I just made sure to tell her how much I appreciated her.)
Yes, Monday was the first day I could use my pasta pass, but I didn’t have time to go until Tuesday. I was pretty excited to wield my newfound powers at the Olive Garden in La Mesa. (Part of me wants to go on pasta pass tour, trying to visit every Olive Garden in the country with this magic card, but unfortunately I have work… unless Olive Garden wants to sponsor me!)
First off, the service was great. I went around 8 and was immediately seated. Per the instructions, I showed the waiter the pass as soon as he came for my drink order. He was a little unsure of the rules regarding the pass, but I don’t hold that against him. There are only 1000 of these things in the wild (give or take) so it’s unlikely that any restaurant would see more than 1 or 2. (According to Wikipedia there are around 820 locations world wide.)
I noticed when given the menu that it has expanded over what I originally found on the website before I purchased the card. They have new premium toppings that range from $3.00 extra to $4.50 for shrimp. They also have a couple of premium sauces that add $1 to the price. This makes the value of the card even GREATER. I enjoyed penne pasta with a triple meat sauce and sausages. The single helping was more than I could comfortably eat and I ended up taking part home for the dogs. The best part was receiving the bill of $0.00 instead of the approximately $17.50 I would have paid. I left a decent tip for the attentive waiter.
The food was really good. I had gone to another Italian restaurant “Tiramisu” recently and mentioned to my date that I would have been just as happy (or happier) eating at Olive Garden for half the price of the fancy, well-reviewed joint. I now stand even more firmly behind that. The food at the high-end restaurant lacked flavor and the interior was bland and empty. Olive Garden feels festive and cozy, and the food has a good kick. Maybe I just lack a subtle palate, but I much preferred the “chain” over the indy shi-shi place.
A friend suggested I try to become the “Jared” of Olive Garden, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea. If I eat appropriate portions and exercise there’s no reason I couldn’t lose weight and get in better shape. That might seem odd since I have an “all you can eat” pass, but actually it makes things easier. Since the pass is already paid for, I don’t feel like I have to “get my money’s worth”. I can eat as little or as much as I want because I know that tomorrow I will still be able to get the same food. Now I just have to figure out how to get Olive Garden’s attention!