Olive Garden contacted me and asked that I participate in a VIP tasting for their new menu items and give my feedback. I really didn’t know what to expect when I arrived with a friend. We were handed two drink tickets each and a seat in the private dining area in the back. Other food bloggers were seated next to me at the table. Then we were introduced to the general manager of that location, as well as a franchisee, several servers and a head chef. A menu of items were listed in front of each seat.
The list was extensive. I started with a salted caramel martini. I have had this drink before and it tickles my taste buds. I love it. They brought out the Olive Garden signature bread sticks. Who can go wrong with those? Then started with the long list of courses. 11 courses served in an hour and forty minutes. I was in pain when I left. They served an entire serving per 2 people at the table. Obviously, this was entirely too much food and we couldn’t consume all of it. They were kind enough to let us take home the leftovers. As they brought out each course, they explained what was in it, and how it was prepared. It was a little overwhelming, but very educating. My favorite dish by far was the grilled chicken butternut squash Alfredo fettuccine. I typically am not a fan of Alfredo sauce or fettuccine, but this one was cooked with cinnamon in it. I couldn’t stop eating it. I knew I had more courses to try, but this one stood out from the rest so much. I tend to get the same thing every time I go to Olive Garden, but my choice has changed going forward, This meal has now become my favorite. Below is a list of everything we tried and a description of it provided by Olive Garden.
- Crispy 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.
- 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 Sausage Meatballs – part of Cucina Mia:
- Choose your pasta: New Large Paccheri, New Tri-Colored Vegetable Penne, Bucatini, New Cavatappi, Whole Wheat Linguine, New Gluten-Free Rotini
- Choose your made-from-scratch sauce: New Creamy Garlic Alfredo, New Primavera, New Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato, New Spicy Diavolo, Fresh Tomato Pomodoro
- Add a topping (additional cost): New Chicken Meatballs, New Sausage Meatballs, Meatballs, Sautéed Shrimp
- Garlic Rosemary Chicken – Grilled marinated chicken breast topped with rosemary and caramelized garlic cloves. Served with garlic parmesan mashed potatoes and fresh spinach.
- Grilled Chicken Butternut Squash Alfredo Futteccine – Grilled chicken breasts served on a bed of fettuccine tossed with creamy roasted butternut squash alfredo and fresh spinach.
- Chicken Abruzzi (Olive Garden Specialty, Lighter Italian Fare [under 575 calories]) – Grilled chicken breast in a savory broth simmered with cannellini beans, kale and gardenvegetables.
- 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 (dessert) – Pumpkin Cheesecake is topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce and ginger cookie crumbles.