Earlier this year, leading Italian restaurant Olive Garden unveiled the most significant menu evolution in the restaurant’s history, adding 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.
I headed over to Burbank’s Olive Garden and was greeted by tasting hostess Vanessa as well as the branch manager Jose, both of whom would serve as guides on my delicious dinner adventure.
Beginning with small plates “Crispy Risotto Bites” were cooked to perfection and presented themselves as a bite-sized blend of cheese and rice served in marinara sauce.
This dish was followed by the tasty appetizer “Artichoke Fritti” which consisted of marinated artichoke hearts, lightly battered and fried. Served with a five cheese marinara dipping sauce.
For light fare the “Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad Topper” was bursting with flavors. Fresh mozzarella bites, bell pepper and an extra-virgin olive oil drizzle made this one of my favorite dishes of the night.
Showing off a selection from the lunch menu, the “Smashed Chicken Meatball Sandwich” with roasted bell peppers and mozzarella on a focaccia bun proved to be an excellent alternative to a typical red meat delicacy. The spice level with the bell peppers that were finely ground into the meatballs was perfectly balanced with the focaccia bun choice.
Speaking of spicey foods this sandwich was followed by the wonderful pasta dish “Bucatini with Spicy Diavolo Sauce and Sausage Meatballs“. This is an extremely spicy diavolo sauce but well worth it. Just keep a few glasses of water near by.
Next up was the “Garlic Rosemary Chicken” that was served with garlic parmesan mashed potatoes and fresh spinach. The chicken was exceptionally tender and the caramelized garlic cloves created an extremely flavorful sauce. The mash potatoes were amazing and I confess I could have spent the rest of the evening eating them alone.
The “Lasagna Fresca” was the lightest lasagna I’ve ever had, it tasted homemade and was hand folded with layers of vegetables, sautéed shrimp and grilled tomatoes.
Continuing on with (Lighter Italian Fare [under 575 calories]) the “Chicken Abruzzi” was a grilled chicken breast in a broth simmered with cannellini beans, kale and garden vegetables.
This was very reminiscent of the regional Italian soup of Ribolitta, if you were to put a grilled chicken breast on top of Ribolitta you would have Chicken Abruzzi.
Finally for dessert I received the perfect sized portion of “Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberries“. These sweet summer strawberries were topped with a rich and creamy vanilla custard inspired by Italy’s mountainous Piedmont region.
Overall I highly recommend these new Olive Garden dishes, specifically the lighter fare which are all incredibly under 575 calories.
Go to The Olive Garden’s website for more information: www.olivegarden.com