I have a confession to make. I’m Italian. And I like Olive Garden.
Yes, it’s true. Now if everyone could hold back the gasps of dismay long enough for an explanation, you might see my reasoning. First off, I recognize that this is not the fanciest, most gourmet restaurant in town. Obviously there are genuine Italian restaurants with fine cuisine in the North End. But on a night out with my friends at home, when we want good food that’s not too expensive, Olive Garden seems a great option. We decided to try out the location at Patriot Place in Foxboro. Right when we stepped in, the place was hopping. Granted, there are plenty of mediocre restaurants that still have customers, but a thirty-minute wait at eight at night is a sign of a popular restaurant. That many people would not be in line for a plate of bad food.
After the seemingly interminable wait, we were seated at a cozy booth. The ambiance and decorations were inoffensive, our waitress was friendly and helpful, and within fifteen minutes we had our drinks, a big bowl of salad, and the breadsticks. Now even Olive Garden’s harshest critics, my sister included, have to admit that the breadsticks, lightly drizzled with garlic and olive oil, are absolutely delicious. Their salad was also more than satisfactory. Both the bread and the salad are “endless” there. That’s right people. We asked for seconds and received even more, and theoretically, we could’ve kept going all night. Soon enough though, our food arrived at the table.
One of my friends got the chicken parmigiana and was quite pleased and had nothing but compliments for his plate. My other friend had just some simple linguine alla marinara with grilled chicken, but he praised the sauce as being tangy and fresh, and not too heavy. I myself ordered the seafood brodetto and was pleasantly surprised. Tender scallops, tilapia, and shrimp were simmered in a white-wine broth along with spinach and mushrooms. Two pieces of toasted bread accompanied the plate, to dip in the savory broth. The portions were to our liking, as most of us came close to finishing our meals, without overlarge servings. When our check arrived, we weren’t overwhelmed by the prices, and we left a generous tip for our waitress, who had been happy to suggest her favorites on the menu and bring us multiple servings of breadsticks and salad. Not to mention that deep bond customers develop with the person who grates cheese over their plate.
All in all, in the soft lighting of Olive Garden, my friends and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. We caught up and could easily carry a conversation at a normal volume, despite the fact that the restaurant was packed and about twenty people were waiting to be seated. The food was delicious, the check wasn’t too expensive, and we walked out pleased with our decision. Olive Garden may be a chain restaurant scorned by many, but hey, my palate isn’t too picky. Give me a plate of well-prepared seafood and some piping hot breadsticks and I’m a happy customer. Pop by the Olive Garden at South Bay Plaza in Dorchester and treat yourself. I dare you to tell me you had a bad time.