Jeff Pearlman

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We went to the Olive Garden

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“In Hell all Italian food is from the Olive Garden”

— Patton Oswalt

We went to the Olive Garden to eat tonight. There were five of us. It was my idea.

I deserve to suffer.

It’d been a long time. Truth be told, I can’t recall the last time I stepped foot into an Olive Garden. Maybe Nashville in the mid-1990s. And I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking, save for that I recall the salad and breadsticks being strong.

So … we went.

And we waited for a table.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

It’s a quirky thing, waiting for your table inside an Olive Garden. First, you notice that the restaurant has a carpet the color of vomit. And second, you notice the smell. Which isn’t the scent of garlic or sauce or fresh-baked bread. Nope, it’s the smell of … nothingness. You’re literally sitting inside an Italian restaurant, and there’s nary a scent.

So we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then, after 40 minutes, we were shown our table. My menu was sticky. Our waiter mo-v-e-d a-t t-h-i-s p-a-c-e. The salad and breadsticks were OK. Not exceptional, not awful. Just … salty and meh. I ordered soup that seemed as if it were fresh from a can. My father in law’s shrimp scampi lacked taste and smell. His girlfriend’s eggplant parm also lacked scent and smell, and the sauce was burned onto the plate—almost certainly because of a poorly adjusted heat lamp. By the time we were prepared to pay, the waiter had vanished. Never saw him.

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There was nothing good about the experience. And Olive Garden is shockingly expensive—about $19, $20 bucks per entre. Which might be OK were the food fresh; were the service decent; were the ambiance charming; were the scents inviting.

But it’s just a crap chain restaurant—no different than I remember.

Thank goodness for the free mints …

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  • tenn tom

    Serves you right. You should know better, especially from where you grew up.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life