On the Scene with Crystal Chanel
Olive Garden Rolls out New Menu Items
By Crystal Chanel
Olive Garden is currently unveiling its newest menu items, and I had an opportunity to be a guest at their intimate media tasting. However, as Fernanda Horvath, a LCCG Rep, the menu included Olive Garden’s signature salad and breadsticks, new appetizers and main courses, lunch favorites and classics.
As a self-proclaimed foodie, I was grateful for the media perk of having a complimentary meal, but I was not prepared to be wow’ed in any manner. Let’s face it: while Olive Garden has become an undeniable staple in the community serving a classic American version of Italian dining, it’s typically only a go-to for family outings and lunch meetings.
However, as Fernanda Horvath, a LCCG Rep, explained the new menu items, restaurant renovations and low calorie options, my interest was piqued, and my anticipation began to rise. “With over 800 restaurants and more than 96,000 team members,” Horvath says “#OG knows that their people equal their success.”
As servers poured each of us a refreshing glass of Water-melon Moscato Sangria to try, Niki May hue, the General Manager for the Olive Garden located at 5550 N. Fed. Hwy., in Fort Lauderdale, introduced herself and gave some historical insight of her location dating back to its inception in 1987. This was the perfect conversation starter and segway for waiters to deliver new and classic menu items, family dining style.
Overall, I give Olive Garden a 10, and here’s why:
Health Consciousness Was Apparent – The Taste of the Mediterranean included 3 options: Spiralized Veggie Pasta, Chicken Giardino and Salmon Piccata, all under 600 calories. I could literally drink the Salmon Piccata sauce, and we all kept asking, are you sure this is under 600 calories. The chefs at Olive Garden mastered upping the vegetable content without sacrificing flavor. It says a lot when a restaurant is intentional in its efforts to feature several healthy and/or vegan options.
Large Portions – Olive Garden was diners to have both dinner that night but lunch the next day. Not only were the portions generous, but the prices ranged from $6.99 to about $15.49 making me realize that Olive Garden is ideal for a date night, happy hour or even a vacation dining option. Large portions of awesome food is appropriate in a multitude of settings.
An Innovative Approach – Olive Garden is thinking outside of the box when it comes to creating new menu items and introducing those items to their customer base. I really enjoyed the Loaded Pasta Chips and the Parmesan Zucchini Bites. I probably would not have ordered either of these items, but after one bite of each, I could not get enough. The Meatball Pizza Bowl is sure to be a hit with kids, and the breadstick (spicy chicken) sandwich with an ice cold beer is perfect for sitting at the bar and watching the game.. Since none of these items are traditional Olive Garden cuisine, I like the innovative approach of allowing traditional and non-traditional media to ‘taste and tell’ first.
Yet Classics are still Classic – Personally, I was glad to see classic pasta dishes like Fettuccine Alfredo and Chicken Parmigiana still on the menu. But for me, the Braised Beef Bolognese, stole the show. It’s a new and limited edition to Olive Garden’s never ending pasta and a must try! I ended the night with a bite of my Cannoli (neapolitan) Trio and a huge gulp of my Milan Mai Tai and plenty of doggie bags.
I can’t wait to get your feed-back. Next time you are dining at Olive Garden, let me know what you think of their new menu items. Use the hashtag #OGTastes.