By Besha Rodell
By Besha Rodell
By Besha Rodell
By Besha Rodell
By Besha Rodell
By Amy Scattergood
By Besha Rodell
By Besha Rodell
430 E. Huntington Drive
Arcadia, CA 91006
Region: Foothill Cities
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There are certain protocols to April Fools' pranks in the modern newsroom, and if you've worked at newspapers long enough, you've probably seen most of them — the urgent messages from Heywood Jablome, the punked emails that tie up screens with dancing cats, the unbolted swivel seats. The Weekly played a pretty good one with its announcement of a free N.W.A reunion concert at Santa Monica Pier, and we probably could have gotten 10,000 people there if the disclaimers hadn't been so broad. Grist reporter Tom Philpott's exposé of Big Spelt was so close to the articles he writes the other 364 days of the year that everybody just assumed he had found another corporation to skewer — who really knows where those big boxes of spelt flakes at Whole Foods come from?
I have always aspired to be the kind of person who could pull off a decent prank, but although I don't like to admit it, I have proved remarkably inept. Sure, there was the year I managed to persuade my daughter that she had just consumed a plate of fuzzy green caterpillars in tomato sauce, but in her defense, she was 6 at the time. After a while, the spilled-catsup gags get stale, your kids no longer believe your stories about the new monkey mayor of San Marino, and your wife knows before opening it that the paper you have lovingly fetched for her from the dew-damp front lawn is going to be 18 months out of date.
This year, I was sure I had figured something out: I was going out of town, I had to put together a restaurant review in a hurry, and I managed to talk Anne Fishbein, our intrepid restaurant photographer, into meeting me for lunch 35 miles from her house — at the Arcadia Olive Garden. We had been spending too much time covering Sichuan restaurants, Korean dives and regional Mexican food, I argued, and readers had been complaining about our enthusiasm for the expensive intercultural restaurants I like so much. Harriet Ells, who produces the Good Food show on KCRW, had recently asked me to hold off on noodles for a bit, so I was able to summon the genuine outrage of a man forbidden — forbidden! — to share his love for dan dan mian.
It was simple: We were going to meet at the Olive Garden, where we would act like tourists and explore the wonders of seafood alfredo and unlimited bread sticks, to express for once the simple goodness of Venetian apricot chicken and grilled shrimp caprese, of chicken scampi and smoked mozzarella fonduta and lasagna fritta. (What is lasagna fritta? Apparently rolled lasagna sliced into thick discs, crisped in trans-fat-free boiling oil and served with a marinara dipping sauce. Words for once fail me.)
The chain has introduced an aesthetic of Tuscan goodness, I assured Anne. Olive Garden chefs now undergo rigorous training at the Culinary Institute of Tuscany, in the heart of Chianti Classico, where "they learn the key values and skills needed to remain true to the rich history of Italian cuisine.'' They bring in their own chianti now, grown around an 11th-century castle called Riserva di Fizzano — the "village'' name is the rough equivalent of calling an olive-oil town Extra-Vergine di Olio. They use pecorino Romano. From Italy. It's cheese. And they were planning to remodel a certain percentage of their restaurants to resemble Tuscan country inns — Tuscan country inns of a sort that didn't really exist until a 1980s ad campaign for digestive biscuits convinced the Italian populace that they did, but no matter.
I had no intention of eating lunch at the Olive Garden. I was planning to intercept the grumpy photographer at the door and spirit her to the Derby, a track-fueled steak house less than a minute's drive down the street. We'd have a Sidecar or two. We'd laugh at how she'd been fooled. There would be leftover meat for her bull terrier.
Except that I was caught in traffic and ended up at the restaurant 20 minutes after she got there. She had commandeered a big table upstairs, and was already into the bread sticks, long, doughy things slicked with grease and oil. She was working on a cappuccino, which was all but hidden under a swirly tower of whipped cream. She was looking forward to a bowl of "Tuscan'' soup with sausage, potato and milk, which she enjoyed — although the soup had clearly broken from being held at too high a heat — and a plate of eggplant parmigiana that consisted of crunchy eggplant Pringles bound with leathery straps of mozzarella.
I would like to say that I enjoyed the tomato-y pasta e fagioli, which was after all no worse than the clear-out-the-crisper soups I make all the time, and that the tenderness of the fried calamari was greater than the sogginess of its breading. I would also like to report that the lasagna rollata al forno was just as good as the remarkably similar lasagna cupcakes from Silver Lake caterers Heirloom L.A., which are something of a local fixation. They weren't, though — they just weren't. Nor was the moment when the waiter filled the tiny wine glass to the rim and said "That'll do ya''; nor the chef's excited tales of the Culinary Institute of Tuscany, nor Anne's delight at my abject misery.
She was not to be deterred from the house tiramisu, and she contemplated getting a platter of dolcini while I wondered how much straight Galliano would deliver me to a merciful death.
I'm the snob. I will always be the snob. Anne just scooped up my bread sticks. It was a prank taken one step too far.
OLIVE GARDEN | 2610 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach. (310) 545-0423 | 430 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia. (626) 821-0636 | 19724 Nordhoff Place, Chatsworth. (818) 772-6090; and many, many other locations | Open Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. | All major credit cards accepted | Full bar | Endless acres of lot parking, although the spaces will all be filled by late-model minivans | Appetizers $7.35-$11.25, pastas $12.25-$17.75, proteins $15.25- $20.95, desserts $2.75-$6.95
Jesus Christ. You all are so worked up. Personally, I don't LOVE Olive Garden, but its an easy quick, moderately affordable solution when I'm craving some breadsticks and egglpant parmesan. Sure, its not mega gourmet awesome delicious, but it takes the edge off and doesn't kill my modest budget or my tastebuds, and I don't have to 'find it' first. Sure, I'm uncultured and middle class, but like most of us, I don't have the time or interesf to seek out hole in the wall places, especially when I have a full family to fee, which includes picky children. And, the writer WAS quite a snob, and I understand his intention was to be humorous. But intent is only half the battle, and you have to have funny content to justify your humorous intent, or you end looking like an ass and ruffling everybody's feathers. Which was probably the point anyway. But yeah. This Jonathan Gold guy is not someone I'd wanna hang out with, if he can't even enjoy a near-decent meal that keeps his fat ass from starving to death. I mean, some people have so little, and you're just mocking them for not being as high class and hip as you. I mean, I'm sure that wasn't the intention, but that was the vibe. Anyway, also, who gives a fuck about authenticity? I just want some breadsticks! -end rant< thanks for reading-
I don't get it.The problem is that Olive Garden isn't really much cheaper than a SERIOUS Italian restaurant. What is the eggplant parm? $13?You could go to Angellini Osteria and get their famous lasagna for $16. You get unlimited assorted bread, and often a free starter of some kind from the kitchen.The quality of Angellini's food is literally lightyears beyond Olive Garden though, by many rights it one of the best restaurants in the city.But you're saying that extra $3 is enough to justify eating grease-soaked, processed, frozen ingredients as opposed to organic, market fresh ones prepared by one of the city's best chefs?...If Olive Garden was serving eggplant parm plates for $5, I would see your point, but damn man, how can it not be worth the extra $3? Your body will thank you... And even for a family of 5 we'd be talking about an extra $15. Surely that isn't THAT big of a deal when you are going out to eat??I don't know...maybe it is...I'm just wondering, because an extra $3 per person seems incredibly reasonable to me.
Although the underlying message may be a tiny bit pretentious, the writing certainly isn't. What a pleasure to read!
yeah. this does sound snobby. and it seems unnecessary...and beneath you too. for many americans, OG is a perfectly fine place to eat. it is affordable and accommodating. we can't forget to respect the enjoyment of others.
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I've been known to enjoy a meal at Olive Garden every now and then. We all know it's not "great food" but hey, sometimes it's what you want. That said, it's clear to me that most of the people trashing Jonathan Gold here just don't know his work. Please consider the man's writing and what he's known for before you reach for your (utterly lazy and repetitive) insults.
My high-school English teacher once told our class that Jack Benny was so well loved because he always made fun of himself, never other people. I think I knew what he meant at the time but am positive I do now.
I'm glad Gold wrote a review of Olive Garden. It affirms my near twenty year personal boycott of the branch that is about five minutes from my home and office. The branch whose parking lot is nearly always full as I drive by scratching my head, wondering if they have improved their menu. Because of the several times I did eat at Olive Garden their pasta was rubbery and their white sauce was pasty, bland and devoid of, hello? Olive oil? I did like their Italian vinaigrette, however, I will give them that - tart and vinegary rather than overly sweet.
Still, to my liking, Olive Garden simply wasn't worth the money (or any money) when far better Italian fare could be eaten at so many more affordable, authentic, mom & pop Italian restaurants (this was when I lived in the Philadelphia area where the true Italian-Americans didn't need to be "trained in the Tuscany tradition.") Now that I live in Texas, I've learned to cook my own rather than suffer through Olive Garden's offerings. After reading Gold's review? I'll keep doing more of the same.
Jabba the Gold strikes the Olive Garden! Snobbery sneers at the middle class. But as a liberal journalist, doesn't he just LOVE the bourgeoisie and despise the rich (a group I doubt he will ever be a member of)?
My Buddha, you can't be serious! He writes about good food and bad food, good and bad food that has nothing to do with socioeconomic classes. And please look up the definition of bourgeoisie before you spout off any more nonsense.
It's a synonym for middle-class in most dictionaries, and therefore rather mean-spirited.
BTW, I always find it delicious when elitists, attempting to show their superior intellect in a condescending way, prove how fatuous they truly are.
World English Dictionarybourgeoisie (ˌbʊəʒwɑːˈziː) [Click for IPA pronunciation guide] — n1. the middle classes
Okay, Professor? Ridiculing places patronized by the middle class by some slob on an expense account, is what you might call "mean spirited".
The comments here are almost as abrasive as the ones on this food blog, which criticized pro athletes for eating at the Olive Garden while in NYC:http://www.thepostgame.com/blo...Clearly, the OG has its fans.
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You are a pretentious a-hole. You have probably seriously diminished someones restaurant career, during horrible economic times no less, because you felt the need to pull an April Fools prank? If you knew anything of how a Corporate Restaurant worked, you would know these people work hard for their money, from the busser on up to the Manager, with little to NO creative control. You mock a waiters friendly banter? You sir, are the one with no class. Also, everyone knows the Derby is quite overrated.
No doubt, the Olive Garden will continue to flourish. However, a restaurant manager, and probably that waiter this idiot decided to mock for his friendly behavior will have their asses handed to them by a corporate DM. People need their jobs, and YES, some people have careers at Olive Garden, and other restaurant chains. Don't be such an elitest.
I don't mind chain restaurants or anything, but I can see how someone with actual tastes would wrinkle their nose at it, especially a place like Olive Garden that seems so incredibly sloppy and lazy in its formula.
It's like going from filet mignon to Pedigree Meaty Chunks.
Sure is a whole lotta butthurt in here. OG is not good food. No chain has good food, because they all buy prepackaged crap from the cheapest supplier they can. It's how they stay in business: pre-made, frozen & thawed mass produced overprocessed crap, assembled on a plate by a college student with a pictographic instruction glued to the wall.
Honestly, I almost envy you people. I wish I was dumb and tasteless enough to eat this schlock and call it "fine dining" in my head. But alas, I am cursed to know what food is supposed to actually taste like and thus I must cook it myself or pay more than $15/plate at a restaurant with an actual chef, rather than a host of kids playing paint-by-number with freshly un-packaged food product objects.
I'll say, some of OG's food is decent, but for the most part it's crap and appeals to the lowest common denominator.
I dated a girl and her idea of "good" Italian food was OG, which is a travesty because we have a bunch of awesome, authentic Italian places here in St. Louis.
You can't just generalize like that. "NO chain has good food," "they ALL buy prepackaged crap." I've been to plenty of non-chain restaurants that are crap. And I don't think anyone thinks OG is "fine dining."
Stephanie: that you have been to plenty of non-chain restaurants that are crap doesn't refute the previous poster's point. If he had said, "Only chain restaurants have bad food and use prepackaged crap," then you would at least actually disagree with him. That some non-chain restaurants have bad food and use prepackaged crap has nothing to do with the assertion that chain restaurants have bad food and use prepackaged crap, except that some non-chain restaurant owners have just decided, "Well, the prevalence of Olive Garden/Chili's/Ruby Tuesday's/Applebee's/etc... must mean that people are willing to pay money for prepackaged crap, so why should I bother giving them anything else?" I realize that this sort of logical reasoning might be tough for someone who rises up in defense of chain restaurants, but give it a try.
When I am forced to eat at the OG (usually when visiting my less culinary astute in-laws), I find that several glasses of almost-palatable chianti soon makes my taste buds go to sleep, and I can pretend to enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, since I am usually the one stuck with the check, that is soon overcome...
What an assGo pick on some over priced hole that snobs fight to get in to over pay for some trendy crap just to throw it up later. Remember food is just pre-potty. Like you!
Hey Jon - you're a worthless piece of shit and maybe if your fat ass spent less time eating at fancy restaurants and looking down on us "little people" and instead got on a treadmill you wouldn't be about 80lbs overweight. You're a loser and we're better than you. I wish you the worst in life for thinking the Olive Garden is below you - dirt is above you.
Oh, my family and I went to the Olive Garden today and it was delicious ! !
My thanks to Greg at Red Eye ....
I believe he also said he enjoys "Sichuan restaurants, Korean dives and regional Mexican food," which would generally be little hole in the wall places. But I wouldn't expect someone who enjoys the OG to actually read the article or understand it. Please stick a breadstick in your mouth the next time you feel like opening it.
Hahahhaha... Really, this fat and repulsing excuse for a human that looks like a child molester must have some set of cojones on him to actually believe that he is superior in any way to people that enjoy chain restaurants. Seriously buddy, cut your disgusting hair and get a life.
Your hate & animosity is aimed in the wrong direction. He had every right to do a scathing review of Olive Garden because: the only reason he was there was because his co-workers took him there as an April Fool's Day joke and it's the most corporate & Americanized Italian restaurant there is. Their food has nothing in common with authentic Italian pasta food.
Jon...You are an asshole. You should have done a review of Soup Plantation where the focus is on building salads so your fat ass could take a break from your excessive caloric intake...does David Crosby know you're running around LA impersonating him? You are a butt plug.
Really? What a jerk this guy is. Just read this review on a fluke...will NEVER read another thing this ass writes.
What a dick Jonathan Gold is. I'm sorry people out there have real jobs, and don't live in your world.
Mr. Gold you've managed to prove that having a Pulitzer is not a guarantee of sense, intellect, or humor. Stupid is as stupid does.
And Jon Gold doesn't care what you think, as he's too busy eating at and writing about places with good food. Amazing!
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