Just like dinner at my family’s house

Those of you familiar with my old blog know that last week I had a craving for Olive Garden, a departure for my love of all things local and non-corporate. However, when we got there the wait was an hour and a half. No craving or compromising of moral values is worth that, so we went somewhere else instead. The thing about a craving is that it never really goes away. Last night, it came back hard, and included a desire for wine and dessert. I previously declared this month all-you-can-eat-February as a preamble to a March diet, making the time ripe to go and splurge on calories. After paying for my U-Haul (that’s 205 miles from Poughkeepsie to New York and back and $1.39 a mile, you do the math…) I decided I can splurge on my credit card as well, and what better place then America’s favorite corporate Italian joint.

I want to report on the experience so no one else ever has to go there. Contrary to popular lore, wine was not pushed on to us from the moment we entered. In fact, while we waited for a table, no one even offered us space at the bar. When our table was finally ready, there were no wine glasses waiting and no dessert menu. Lest that stop us, we found our way through the menu and picked the wine on our own !Like Grownups! (We still had crayons and the children’s menu for balance) When the wine arrived, I found it to be quite palatable and chilled to almost frozen. The salad and breadsticks arrived soon after. Birmingham, a former Olive Garden Employee, let me in on a trade secret: the salad is put together by the server. Since I rather liked our server, I will not dis the salad beyond these words, “too much dressing.” Oh, and, “iceberg lettuce is cheap.”

You also get all you can eat breadsticks at the Olive Garden. I suppose this is a good thing if you are a deer and you enjoy a good salt lick. You better believe I had 2 and a half of them. The food arrived, and I can only describe my reaction to it as disappointed. Being a lifelong aficionado of all things Italian (including you, Andrea Bocelli) I had an expectation of eggplant parmesan being thick, breaded, smothered in sauce and cheese, nestled up to some yummy noodles, and topped with even more sauce. Instead, I got sauce so skimpy, I was able to see the pattern on the plate! There were noodles left uncovered! The eggplant was so thin and crusty like a bagel chip.

Before I got on to report about dessert, I need to take a moment to discuss the 8 high school age boys seated in our section of the restaurant. Pumped full of soda and all the salty steamy garlicky breadsticks they could ingest, they became quite hyper. Because they were there, and they were family, they felt welcome to stage a push-up contest then and there on the floor. Would that happen in my locally owned and operated Italian Restaurant? I think not.

After the meal, I ordered the dessert I had been dreaming of all night: Chocolate lasagna cake. For those of you who unfamiliar with this culinary masterpiece, it is called “lasagna” because it is multi-layered, mixing chocolate and buttercream. There is a picture of it in the menu looking light and frothy, drizzled in extra chocolate. For anyone who has ever been to a Chinese restaurant or McDonald’s and honestly thought they were going to get a meal that looks like the picture, I’m right there with you, and the disappointment never wanes. The actual cake looked like someone cut it with a dull pocket knife and then stepped on it a little. But was it tasty? File under: not worth the calories. I finished it anyway and got to full to do anything that night but watch Lost on tape again. I just have to say, can you believe that the waitress was Kate’s mom? And I also want to add I love the work that Madison does. So much more believable than Ana Lucia.

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