General Question

charliecompany34's avatar

"olive garden" italian restaurants or mom and pop authentic dives?

Asked by charliecompany34 (7810points) September 19th, 2008

i love italian food. for my birthday celebration i always want to go to “olive garden.” this restaurant may or may not be in your area, but it tries real hard to be authentic and family-like. when you want to dine italian, is a chain like this your choice or do you seek out the authentic haunts?

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18 Answers

PupnTaco's avatar

Authentic will always be better. Food quality will (ideally) demonstrate passion and the atmosphere and attention can’t be matched by a chain staffed with minimum-wage employees.

augustlan's avatar

Authentic, all the way.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I worked at Olive Garden for over two years. Trust me, mom and pop authentic is MUCH better!

charliecompany34's avatar

@pupntaco: i know some chain mexican restaurants that have that americanized taste of a taco, but because of my experienced palate, i would prefer the the “real taste” of mexican food. seems the meat is not seasoned as heavily, but the cook lends other fresh spices to compliment the meat like cilantro and cumin. eating experience is more fresh and real. you know what i’m saying?

SpatzieLover's avatar

Always AUTHENTIC for me.

You can’t get fried eggplant, Margarita pizza, hand-stuffed cannolis or raviolis at any chain.

Olive Garden is WAY to salty for my buds.

charliecompany34's avatar

@spatzie: people are so sleep on eggplant. i love it!

charliecompany34's avatar

tastes like steak or mushrooms or veal if you hook it up right.

maybe_KB's avatar

Olive Garden and Red Lobster are owned by the say man.
For a truely FRESH salad (meaning tomatoes, pepperchinis, olives, lettuce etc..)
I have yet to experience bruising of any kind w/ Olive Garden.
However, mom, the uncle, the life-long family member-
will put (as far as i believe)
more love into the warm dish you are to consume vs. the employee that’s on the verge of quiting come next week.
(*don’t forget the co-worker they can’t stand :)

IanMcCloud's avatar

Are you kidding me!?!?!?!? OG is for college students who need to squeeze three shitty meals out of one.
1) Breadsticks & Salad
2) Leftover Pasta gloop (yes, congealed)
3) More gloop
4) A sense that you waited in line for an hour for a shitty meal that came with a big box of shitty leftovers….

JackAdams's avatar

The last time I was at an Olive Garden was the last time.

The food was so lousy, and the servers so rude, that I and my date walked out, without paying.

IanMcCloud's avatar

and don’t forget as an employee I’ll steal cream and jerk off into skim milk (YUCK!).

Mom and pop may be more likely to have milk or meat a day past expiration, and they may not “wash” their (comparatively clean) hands as much, but the are NOT deliberately fucking you over as a way to get back at their corporate puppet masters who feed them minimum wage and a retarded boss!

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

Wow, and here I thought I was the only person jaded by the experience of working in a restaurant. My sister has been working at Olive Garden for almost a month now, and makes a lot more working less shifts than she did at other chains, loves her boss and generally gets along real well with her co-workers. It’s unrealistic to assume that every restaurant in a chain is a poorly managed hell hole just because of your bad experiences and because you may simply dislike their product. Instead of going rabid about it, just don’t go. The business will go on, you’ll keep on truckin’ and everything will be okay. I promise. There is no need to try to scary people away with stories about semen in milk and piss in the lemonade. May I remind you that even the people at mom and pop joints are capable of doing terrible things when they’re angry, and that these incidents are not at all common. I was shoveled a minimum wage by a retarded boss for two years at a Logan’s Roadhouse, and the only act of revenge I ever witnessed was one of the grill cooks intentionally giving a mean ass old lady spicy sauce on her chicken wings. Ejaculates are not the norm.

And while I may not find Olive Garden’s food absolutely horrible like some, I have to echo the sentiment of going for authentic if you really, really want to a taste of Italian cooking. OG’s food isn’t horrible, but it’s no where near authentic because your typical American has to have INTENSE FLAVOR ALL THE TIME. Subtlety is lost on a lot of people, especially when it comes to cooking and food.

girlofscience's avatar

I guess I’m alone here. I really love chain restaurants. Olive Garden is great.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I worked at three locations. OG isn’t terrible in the grand scheme of chain restaurants. I didn’t hate working there (except some locations seem to attract the most awful customers) and I actually have quite a bit of good things to say about it. If you’re going to eat at a chain, I would pick OG over many, many others. Most of these chains have almost no fresh ingredients, sauces come out of a bag/box, etc. At least at OG, they make the sauces and soups fresh every day and not everything is frozen. In terms of freshness, which is basically what I value in real Italian food, OG is the top of the list for chains. As a bonus, as someone else said, there really wasn’t much (if any) food tampering going on, in the way we imagine people might spit in our food and stuff.

They also have the absolute best coffee you will find in a restaurant, no joke. I am a total coffee snob and I stopped brewing coffee at home because I loved the coffee at work. The desserts are pretty much all premade, though.

Red Lobster is the suckiest restaurant ever and I can’t believe it’s owned by the same company as OG. It’s terrible, terrible, terrible.

However, I would still pick a mom and pop authentic place over OG, for several reasons. One, after having eaten so much of their food over the years, I have to say it all sort of started to taste alike.. in that the chicken in most dishes wasn’t marinated or grilled, they used the same plain chicken breast in ten different dishes.. there’s only so much a sauce can do for chicken, you know? Also, OG food is not really Italian.. it’s Italian-American – basically inspired by real Italian dishes, made for the American palate. I’m spoiled in that my mom’s lived in Italy for like 12 years, so I’m really partial to the real thing. :)

cwilbur's avatar

I wouldn’t say that the Olive Garden “tries hard to be authentic”; I know actual Italian restauranteurs that use it as a swear word. Instead, I think it tries to come across that way in its advertising.

In areas that have no authentic Italian restaurants, eating at the Olive Garden is probably preferable to starving to death, but not by a lot.

marinelife's avatar

Authentic dives every time. I still mourn the death of Strolli’s in Philadelphia. There was no sign. If you did not know it was there, you had trouble finding it—it just looked like a rowhouse. The tables were long, communal ones. Mama Strolli made her famous gravy. The meatballs were the size of baseballs and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs was $2.50 (back in the 80s). The ‘role (escarole with garlic and olive oil) was to die for. Papa Strolli strolled around greeting people puffing on his cigar. If you got lucky, he played his ukelele.

PupnTaco's avatar

@charlieco: absolutely. There’s a mom & pop Mexican place in San Clemente called Olamendi’s that makes the perfect mole.

Smashley's avatar

I’m not a stickler for “authentic” Italian, since American-Italian is so prevalent it has a cuisine of its own. When in America, I will try their specialties, and when in Italy I will try theirs. Olive Garden can be called American-Italian, and most restaurants (even “Authentic” ones) in America, are also an interpretation of this cuisine, albeit with higher standards for food production.

You have to understand that the Olive Garden is a corporate restaurant. It’s goals are to serve lots of people lots of food and alcohol, make them happy, and get them out the door as fast as possible. To that end, almost none of their food can be “authentic”. Much pre-production is necessary to enable them to put out food in such high volumes at such speeds. Sauces are made ahead of time, most likely using pre-portioned and freeze-dried ingredients, hot desserts are microwaved, pastas and vegetables are precooked and portioned. In the end, you get food that is consistent, hot and reasonably tasty, but nothing near as good as making it yourself or having someone who will take their time cook it for you.

Olive Garden is serviceable if you happen to live near a better-run location, and aren’t around many other Italian restaurants, plus it’s one of the cheapest three course meals you are going to find. They will also go out of their way to re-make or exchange food if what you have isn’t to your liking. For myself, I’ve tried Olive Garden enough to recognize that everything tastes identical, the portions are too large, and the olives and olive oil are of mediocre quality (you’d think maybe that would be something the OLIVE Garden would have tried to get right). I much prefer to cook Italian for myself and take the time to do it right.

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