Dining Out: Olive Garden (Pineville)
I was in the Pineville area on Sunday and we decided to go to the Olive Garden - one of my mother-in-laws favorite restaurants. I assume most of you are familiar with Olive Garden - a large chain of 611 restaurants throughout the United States and Canada. I rarely think to go eat at an Olive Garden as my first choice, but I am unsure why. The service is usually above grade - especially for a restaurant in its price range. The food has always been very good when I have been as well. And the decor and atmosphere are always pleasing.
This Sunday offered very little out of the ordinary for an Olive Garden experience - very good service, great food at a reasonable price, in a great atmosphere. I always have a hard time ordering at many Italian restaurants because the menu is usually so large and there are so many items that seem similar to me. This time, I ordered the Five Cheese Stuffed Rigatoni with Sausage which is a limited time item. It was outstanding. Each bite of the Rigatoni bursted with the flavor of the cheeses inside. It was covered in tomato alfredo sauce and topped with grilled Italian sausage. The Italian sausage was extremely tender and rich in Italian spices. I am a big fan of this dish and am a bit dissappointed that it is only available for a limited time - especially with a price of only $9.95 including salad.
As always, the salad was packed full of fresh veggies and covered in Italian dressing. I am usually a Ranch Dressing type person, but the Italian dressing seems to go with the salad there for some reason. Anyway, it was a great salad. Another nice touch that Olive Garden adds that most restaurants do not is that they serve the salad on a chilled plate. I am not sure why, but this seems to make the salad better?
My wife ordered the Five Cheese Ziti al Forno. This is ziti pasta in a five cheese marinara sauce and covered in Italian cheeses - and then baked. This dish was also excellent. At $12.75, it was pricier in comparison to my dish and I am not sure it was worth that much more than mine.
My mother-in-law had the Chicken Parmigiana. The dish consisted of a parmesan breaded chicken breast, fried and topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. The overall taste of this dish was satisfying. The chicken was very moist and tender. They could have provided a little more spaghetti as it seems that there was not a lot there. They should up the portion considerably. Spaghetti is cheap. I suggest to double or possibly triple the portion of spaghetti for a $10.75 dish.
Other items of note on this visit:
- Sweet tea needs vast improvement. It was almost unsweet. Add more sugar.
- The breadsticks were great.
- The service was very good. I would even classify it as a tad short of exceptional considering the price range of the restaurant.
- I am always pleasantly surprised by the wonder Andes Chocolate mint provided at the end. (I always remember Christmas time at my grandmothers. I would get a box of these and would secretly eat almost the whole thing that day.)
All in all, Olive Garden was an excellent value for the money. I guess that is why they always seem so busy whenever we go there.