First off, let me tell you that you will not get a biased report from a restaurant that knows a food critic is coming but it's a lot of fun being treated like royalty!
I have not written in my blog for a long time because I got sick and tired of all the bad food being passed off in Anchorage as anything sell-able in the majority of the restaurants in town. I'm not a gourmet chef by any means but I can cook and I know good food. I did happen to do to cooking school and I have cooked in about 10 restaurants in my early years. I do know what goes on in the kitchen of most restaurants because I have been there. Working my way from dishwasher to prep cook to line cook to manager of local hometown eateries. I know that it's not only the quality of your ingredients but if your cooks actually are passionate about the food they serve and if they love to make people happy. If your cook is just there for his paycheck, your food we reflect that.
Anyway, my story today actually began 2 weeks ago when I was contacted by an Olive Garden's Media Relations representative because of this here blog. I was to eat lunch on them. Sweet! I never turn down free food!
So today was my day. I was to speak to the manager and they would have a table waiting for me at noon. The general public had a 45 minute wait today, for yours truly, it was 10 minutes. I had 2 other join me for lunch today. My partner in crime and husband as well as one of his co-workers, who just so happens to love eating food.
We had a lovely waitress named June, who is a riot and if you can request a server, I would suggest her. We opted to give the $12.95 lunch special a try, which gives you a choice of soup/salad, plus an entree and a small dessert. Perfect! When I was at Olive Garden for Dinner a few days back, my friends ordered some stuffed mushrooms and decided I needed to have some of my own so I also added that to the order. Drinks arrived promptly and soon the Manager herself showed up at the table. Since I'm new to all of this Food Celerity stuff, I had no idea what to expect and I think she was also fairly new to it as well. She was so wonderful and polite and I think we could have asked for the moon and would have received it.
Even though we had a fair warning that our Mushroom Appetizer would take 15+ minutes just to cook, it came in record time along with the soups. This time I did get my Chicken & Gnocchi soup which they had run out of the last time I was there. All the food was very warm, the mushrooms were sizzling, literally. The soups were pretty tasty but we did wish the cream soups were of a thicker consistency, but we did enjoy sopping up the remains with the infamous bread sticks.
Just as we were finishing the soup and bread sticks off the meals arrived. I enjoyed the fettuccine with the Portobello mushrooms while my companions got the Mozzarella Chicken dish and the Sausage Tortellini . They arrived in style with fresh grated Parmesan cheese topping them off.
Yum! I tried both mine and my husband's they they were very good. Mine had just the right amount of light sauce with crispy, crunchy bread crumbs scattered on top. I only wish there were more mushrooms but really, that 's just my greedy, mushroom loving side talking. The dish was an excellent Olive Garden dish.
Finally, for dessert, as part of the Dinner Trio for $12.95 we got a perfectly sized taste of Italy. I'm a chocolate girl so I choose the Dark Chocolate with caramel while Hubby had the mini Tiramisu. Super cute and so yummy! Honestly, they are the perfect size to top off a great meal and fix that sweet tooth.
Now, as you already know, this was not a typical visit to Olive Garden because the staff was warned I was coming. However, since I had already been to Olive Garden on a previous occasion I did get to see the "real" side of things. Given the fact they had only been open 2 weeks, and the entire state of Alaska was trying to eat there, they did a marvelous job. We were told our wait that night was 2 1/2 hours but we got in in just over 1 hour. Pretty good for a party of 8+. Things got pretty crazy there when our soon to be table of 10 had two waitresses and orders were being forgotten and such, but the night manager swooped in and filled waters, took an order, and chatted with us. Everything was taken care of and fixed in no time at all. That tells me that the people that work there really do care about how the place is run and what people think.
The Anchorage Olive Garden really has a wonderful family atmosphere that you cannot get in most chain restaurants anymore. It's loud and boisterous and it smells great. The lighting is perfect, not too dark, not too light. Maybe once everyone has tried it, the lines will start to diminish and the wait time to get a table will be less then 15 minutes. I know that as long as the staff of Olive Garden continue to show the passion for great food and excellent customer service, they will become one of Alaska's favorite restaurants.
Long Live Olive Garden!