In his latest review, L.A. Weekly critic Jonathan Gold has a hearty chuckle at the expense of the Olive Garden and those misguided masses who deign to consider it an actual Italian restaurant. The critic asserts from the get-go that this was his April Fools' Day practical joke gone terribly awry, with the tragic result being that he actually had to suffer the chain's lasagna rollata al forno, which (shudder), isn't anywhere as good as the lasagna cupcakes recently written about in The Wall Street Journal. You see, Gold had merely intended to meet his photographer here, then take her to another, superior restaurant, laughing all the way about how very crappy their meal would have been had they actually stayed at the "Tuscan" chain and eaten with the hoi polloi. The plan, however, was undone by two persistent bugaboos we know a little something about: traffic and deadlines.
Gold got to the restaurant late, only to find his potential mark was already elbow deep in the contemptible bread sticks ("doughy things slicked with grease and oil") and a villainous cappuccino ("all but hidden under a swirly tower of whipped cream"). He then proceeds to eat there, much like millions of Americans probably do every night, hating it to its very marrow the whole way through for not being Vincenti, Mozza, or Angelini Osteria.
"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," the critic writes, "and that the tenderness of the fried calamari was greater than the sogginess of its breading." But try as he might, he obviously does not get the chance. He even gets in a shot at the vile rube serving him who says, "That'll do ya','" while filling his wine to the point of maximum surface tension. All the while, his photographer seems to want even more of the populist slop, as Gold contemplates suicide by Galliano.
Soon, it was deadline time, so Gold went for the bronze this once, filing his report on the horrors he had witnessed within the walls of Arcadia's Olive Garden. And lest anyone call the Pulitzer Prize–winning scribe, who typically champions the sticky tables of far-flung L.A. restaurants, some sort of elitist, he's the first to admit, "I'm the snob. I will always be the snob."
Jonathan Gold Reviews the Olive Garden [L.A. Weekly]