It's popular to make fun of The Olive Garden. The cheesy commercials featuring friends and family getting together for a meal, and the tag line, "When you're here, you're family," almost demand it. There was an episode of The Bachelor with Andrew Firestone when when of the bachelorettes confided that her favorite chain restaurant was The Olive Garden much to his disgust. Yes, I could probably have better Italian food at home if I opened a jar of Bertolli's and a package of pasta, but I wouldn't get unlimited breadsticks and salad, now would I?
Apparently Olive Garden has a culinary institute in Tuscany where they and all their chefs to be trained in Italian cuisine. Um, I've been to Italy and I don't remember having food there like they serve at the Olive Garden. Frankly, there are other chain restaurants that I like better, P.F. Chang's (why oh why do we have a Chevy's in NY but no P.F. Chang's?), Bonefish Grill, Legal Seafoods but the Olive Garden is like comfort food. You know what you're going to get when you get there. The first time I went to the Olive Garden in NY, I couldn't believe I was actually eating there considering how many great Italian restaurants we have in New York. It was after an RWA NYC meeting. The food wasn't that great, but hanging out with my friends was. I've only been back once, but again, I had an awesome time, plus the pasta was only $9.95 which is mega cheap for New York.
So, despite the cheesy commercials and the so-so food, I will continue to eat occasionally at The Olive Garden.