As fans of Olive Garden hubby and I always make sure we visit a few times a month. He requested to go for his birthday this month and as always we have a great time enjoying our favorites.
When I found out there was going to be a lunch menu tasting for the media I immediately signed up. I met with other bloggers at the Times Square location in NYC and we sampled 10 courses in an hour. Can I just say I came hungry and left stuffed in a good way.
Earlier this year, Olive Garden unveiled the most significant menu evolution in the restaurant’s history, including more than 20 new menu items that broaden the choice, variety and value it offers guests, prepared with new cooking techniques that accentuate new flavors. Olive Garden’s new menu is designed to appeal to the evolving palettes and preferences of casual dining guests, while providing guests with more options to customize their meal experience at both lunch and dinner.
• Risotto Bites (“Small Plates”) – Bite-sized blend of Italian cheeses and rice, lightly fried and served in marinara sauce.
• Polenta Shrimp alla Greca (“Small Plates”) – Sautéed shrimp served on creamy polenta and topped with a fresh blend of olives, capers and tomato sauce.
• Spicy Calabrian Wings (appetizer) – Chicken wings tossed with garlic and chili peppers from the Italian region of Calabria, served with gorgonzola dipping sauce. Available for a limited time.
• Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad Topper – Fresh mozzarella bites, roasted tomato, bell pepper, basil, kale and an extra-virgin olive oil drizzle.
• Smashed Chicken Meatball Sandwich – Smashed chicken meatballs with roasted bell peppers and mozzarella on a focaccia bun.
• Bucatini with Spicy Three Meat Sauce and Meatballs – Served as part of Never Ending Pasta Bowl. Starting Sept. 22 through Nov. 9, guests can enjoy a variety of more than 150 pasta combinations, plus homemade soup or garden fresh salad and fresh baked garlic breadsticks – all unlimited and starting at just $9.99. Learn more and see additional combinations here.
• Chicken Abruzzi (Olive Garden Specialty, Lighter Italian Fare [under 575 calories]) – Grilled chicken breast in a savory broth simmered with cannellini beans, kale and garden vegetables.
• Grilled Chicken with Butternut Squash Alfredo Fettuccine – Grilled chicken breasts served on a bed of fettuccine tossed with creamy roasted butternut squash alfredo and fresh spinach. Available as part of the fall menu and for a limited time only.
• Pappardelle Pescatore (Olive Garden Specialty) – Sautéed shrimp, bay scallops and clams tossed with pappardelle pasta, fresh asparagus and tomatoes in a creamy red pepper seafood sauce.
• Pumpkin Cheesecake – A seasonal favorite, this is a pumpkin cheesecake topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce and ginger cookie crumbles. Available for a limited time only.
My favorites were the Spicy Calabrian Wings. If you read the description above you see why. I am a spice fanatic and these are off the hook. Just the right spice (for me) you can be the judge. I really hope these stay on the menu forever. Even though they are an appetizer I enjoyed them as an entree with a salad and breadsticks I would be happy. Please Olive Garden keep these Spicy Calabrian Wings.
Polenta Shrimp was another one of my favorites. Everyone that knows me knows shrimp is my number one favorite seafood. I enjoyed this dish very much. The combo of the capers, olives and tomato sauce was very very good.
Smashed Chicken Meatball Sandwich was melting in my mouth. It tasted like a chicken parmigiana sandwich. The roasted peppers and mozzarella cheese really complimented that sandwich.
Bucatini with Spicy Three Meat Sauce and Meatballs. (Mama Mia) This entree had me going back for thirds. Yes thirds. I loved it. Once again anything spicy as long as I can taste the heat is a plus in my recipe book. This is part of the never ending pasta bowl so I will be back before it ends Nov 9. My birthday is in October so it’s all good.
Who goes to a restaurant and not order dessert? Well if you ate everything I mentioned above you would have ordered dessert to go but at least you have it for a midnight snack. This is where the Pumpkin Cheesecake comes in. Yes this is seasonal so I can’t ask Olive Garden to keep it on the menu forever unless I’m the one donating pumpkins year-round and doing the baking. Lol. I tried. I enjoyed my cheesecake very much and maybe for my birthday I can get a whole pumpkin cheesecake. (Wink,wink). Delicioso!!!
New Dinner Menu Highlights:
· Fall Flavors: Celebrate the flavors of fall with Olive Garden’s brand-new Grilled Chicken Butternut Squash Alfredo Fettuccine and the return of guest-favorite, Pumpkin Cheesecake.
· Small Plates: Expanding the Tastes of Italy section to include eight small plate dishes for guests who want to explore different flavors.
· Antipasti and Caprese Salads: Creating new ways for guests to enjoy Olive Garden’s popular signature salad through the addition of antipasti or caprese toppings.
· Lighter Italian Fare: Enhancing variety within the under-575-calories menu section by introducing additional dishes for calorie-counting guests.
· Specialty Entrees: Bringing new culinary-forward entrees to the chicken and seafood sections of the menu, enhanced by preparation on a new Piastra flat-top grill for a more evenly cooked, tender and juicy taste.
I had a wonderful time stuffing my face and learning about the new fall flavors and under 575 calories menu. The manager and servers were friendly and always made sure we had something on our plates and in our glasses. I also won a $25 gift card for participating in a social media contest while at the restaurant. My birthday meal is looking pretty good thanks to Olive Garden.
Disclosure: I wasn’t compensated for this post. Opinions are always mine 100%. I received lunch, a t- shirt and won a gift card.