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Fear and Loathing at Olive Garden: Italian Nachos

Fear and Loathing at Olive Garden: Italian Nachos
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  • Fear and Loathing at Olive Garden: Italian Nachos

    Post #1 - February 5th, 2018, 2:46 pm
    Post #1 - February 5th, 2018, 2:46 pm Post #1 - February 5th, 2018, 2:46 pm
    Loaded Pasta Chips, photo David Hammond.jpg Loaded Pasta Chips, photo: David Hammond


    Last week, in time for the Super Bowl, Olive Garden started offering, for a limited time, Loaded Pasta Chips, also known (on the internets) as Italian nachos. This is a simple starter, just fried pasta sheets, ladled with tomato sauce, a few meat bits here and there, roasted cherry peppers, cheese, and a drizzle of Alfredo sauce.

    Of course, such a nontraditional offering is sure to fan the fires of indignation:

    • “Olive Garden's menu has a history of offending Italian grandmothers, and this dish is no exception.” [https://mashable.com/2018/02/01/olive-garden-italian-nachos/#CZALpWhGEOqm]

    • “Be warned that it will crash your nutrition for the day.” [http://abc13.com/food/meet-olive-gardens-new-italian-nachos/3019447/]

    • “Even with everything going on in the world today. This may be the most disturbing.” [https://twitter.com/stevekovach/status/959153745702608897]

    • "We all have our limits, and it turns out this is mine" [https://twitter.com/meggophone?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fguestofaguest.com%2Fnew-york%2Ffood%2Fpasta-nachos-abomination-or-absolute-must-have]

    My attention was drawn to Olive Garden’s Italian nachos when friend, food writer, restaurateur and fellow paisan Joe Campagna posted a photo of the dish with the concise assessment: “This is absurd.”

    With all that negative energy coming out against Italian nachos, I had to try them. So, on Sunday, we stopped by the Olive Garden near North Riverside Plaza and had them, along with the suggested pairing, Milan Mai Tai.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with the ingredients of this dish, which are uniformly approved by most Americans: pasta, tomato/meat sauce, and cheese. What must be setting people off is the untraditional way in which the ingredients are brought together. But if Olive Garden represents anything, it’s the aggressively non-traditional approach to Italian cuisine, as represented in this offering as well as their fried lasagna, spiralized veggie pasta, and chicken Alfredo flat bread, none of which you’re likely to see on menus in Italy.

    But so what?

    Olive Garden is more concerned with making food that people will want to eat than it is with making food that’s “authentic” (a constantly invoked standard that many times means nothing). We thought the Loaded Pasta Chips were just fine, with one of us even going so far as to say she’d order it again if she came in for a snack and a glass of wine.

    The menu suggested pairing the Loaded Pasta Chips with Milan Mai Tai, a blend of Malibu rum, grenadine and amaretto. This was not a good pairing: the cocoanut flavors of the Malibu rum were way out of synch with the tomato sauce and cheese, and it’s probably a good thing the amaretto was virtually unnoticeable. A glass of red wine would have been a better match for what is essentially a pasta dish.

    Olive Garden has become a kind of punchline, and maybe some of that heat is deserved, but I’ll defend their right to be the source for some of the most innovative Italian food being served today…though about 30 minutes after eating there, I felt a little queasy for the rest of the afternoon. This is how I suffer for my craft. You’re welcome.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #2 - February 5th, 2018, 3:25 pm
    Post #2 - February 5th, 2018, 3:25 pm Post #2 - February 5th, 2018, 3:25 pm
    Oh, David.

    What is Italian for “Shanda fur di goyim"?

    Giovanna
    =o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=

    "Enjoy every sandwich."

    -Warren Zevon
  • Post #3 - February 5th, 2018, 3:31 pm
    Post #3 - February 5th, 2018, 3:31 pm Post #3 - February 5th, 2018, 3:31 pm
    Giovanna wrote:Oh, David.

    What is Italian for “Shanda fur di goyim"?

    Giovanna



    Fare qualcosa di veramente brutto di fronte a non ebrei
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #4 - February 5th, 2018, 3:50 pm
    Post #4 - February 5th, 2018, 3:50 pm Post #4 - February 5th, 2018, 3:50 pm
    David Hammond wrote:Fare qualcosa di veramente brutto di fronte a non ebrei


    Fare qualcosa di veramente brutto di fronte a non paisan, maybe.

    But, still, good answer.

    I, too, have studied under D. Guglielmo Google, PhD.

    Jenny from the block
    =o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=o=

    "Enjoy every sandwich."

    -Warren Zevon
  • Post #5 - February 5th, 2018, 4:55 pm
    Post #5 - February 5th, 2018, 4:55 pm Post #5 - February 5th, 2018, 4:55 pm
    Giovanna wrote:Oh, David.

    What is Italian for “Shanda fur di goyim"?

    Giovanna

    Wassa-matta-fo-you!?

    Great title!
  • Post #6 - February 5th, 2018, 10:46 pm
    Post #6 - February 5th, 2018, 10:46 pm Post #6 - February 5th, 2018, 10:46 pm
    Always with the negative vibes! (Not you, David; those criticisms you linked to.) Italian nachos are an abomination, but Irish nachos have been okay for decades? Maybe you're right and what matters is whether it tastes good.
    "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
  • Post #7 - February 5th, 2018, 11:14 pm
    Post #7 - February 5th, 2018, 11:14 pm Post #7 - February 5th, 2018, 11:14 pm
    Olive Garden....The Taco Bell of Italian Food.
  • Post #8 - February 6th, 2018, 8:44 am
    Post #8 - February 6th, 2018, 8:44 am Post #8 - February 6th, 2018, 8:44 am
    I am not a fan of Olive Garden (though I was in my teens despite growing up w "real" Italian food), but it certainly serves a purpose. I am also in the "if it tastes good, so what" camp.

    What I find amusing, if not ironic, is that certain creations are often called abominations and such while Michelin-starred chefs have put out Cheez-It Risotto, Twinkie Croutons, and Deconstructed Big Macs.

    This reminds me of the movie line (Lethal Weapon?) about rich people being eccentric rather than crazy. I suppose high-end = whimsical, while middle-of-the-road is ridiculous? :-).
  • Post #9 - February 6th, 2018, 10:43 am
    Post #9 - February 6th, 2018, 10:43 am Post #9 - February 6th, 2018, 10:43 am
    Artie wrote:Olive Garden....The Taco Bell of Italian Food.

    Nah, that would be Fazoli's, which makes Olive Garden look like Spiaggia.
  • Post #10 - February 6th, 2018, 12:11 pm
    Post #10 - February 6th, 2018, 12:11 pm Post #10 - February 6th, 2018, 12:11 pm
    Artie wrote:Olive Garden....The Taco Bell of Italian Food.


    You've besmirched the good name of Taco Bell.
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.

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