DINING DATE   Monday August 3rd


MEAL TIME     Dinner

ATTENDEES IN PARTY   4 (2 adults, 2 kids)


Ordered   Tour of Italy


ENTREE   I’m Italian but A) I’m not a snooty one when it comes to food and will cover that in subsequent reviews  B) I eat at Olive Garden. Like going into the curtained off room at the Video Store in the 1990s, it’s something that seems like a good idea and then you’re ashamed of yourself.


The Eau Claire Olive Garden, once inside, looks, feels and smells and sounds like any other.  If the windows were blacked out, one could say they’re in any city in this country with this franchise (daydream of Orlando, perhaps!). So why Olive Garden?  It’s comfortable and to their credit they’re routinely coming up with new items. Yes, the salad is very good but craving breadsticks is like wanting more Russel Brand.  You may want to put the Rocka-Wear away, get out of 2008 and join us in 2019.  The breadsticks are dry and salty and no longer the soft buttery delights they once were.

Locally, the Olive Garden's dining room is open but on this day we decided to simply do carry-out.  The process is very simple with online ordering and a number to call once you pull up.  It's easy and efficient and the food is packaged well in plastic containers.  There is nothing "positive" about COVID-19 but it has made many businesses develop and tighten up protocols for different ways of going about things and carry-out/delivery is one of them.  Olive Garden (and a few local places) have made it look seemless.

On to the meal.  The Hungry Italian obviously had some salad and breadsticks. Those on diets or caloric limits need not apply to these too things as the dressing on the salad ruins it's health benefits and merely looking at the doughy objects adds 20 pounds to a waistline.

But, we only live once and they're tasty. 

For the carry-out portion do order extra breadsticks.  Much like "fries" at a fast food place  you'll regret it if you don't order it.  You'll feel guilty for ordering but guilt is easier to overcome than regret.

The main entre for the Hungry Italian was the Tour of Italy which is a scoop of fettucine alfredo, a small slice of lasagna and a small chicken parm cutlet. This dish is highly recommended as it allows one to savor all the Italian-American flavors.  There is differing textures and layers among all three and odd...if Olive Garden's menu is to be actually less calories than many other single dishes (again, don't do calorie counting on an Olive Garden dinner night).

The final verdict is…let’s be honest, you’ll keep going.  One thing I want to make clear though. Don’t stay away because this isn’t “real Italian”.  For starters, I simply don’t want to hear Anders from Elk Mound legislate what Italian is because he once ate at a New York Pizzeria on a trip to see Broadway shows with his wife.   If you stay away because of a bad experience or the prices, that’s fine. However, by no means do you have the RIGHT to stay away because you claim this isn’t Italian.

Yes, it isn’t real Italian. If you want that, you need to head over to Italy where you’ll find a cuisine 80% different than what we imagine here. Perhaps you’ll like it but more often than not it’s an expensive trip where you validate you like meatballs with your spaghetti and your chicken to be PARMED.

SECOND HELPING Yes:  We all say we’ll stay away from “chains” but they pulls us back in for comfort. We aren’t proud of ourselves and as an Italian I know I’ve got a rolling pin to the back of the head waiting for me when I see my grandmother in Heaven (or my second cousin who ran numbers for the Upstate NY Mob in Hell).