Sorry Olive Garden

My husband and I enjoyed a date with our daughter yesterday at Amicci’s in Baltimore’s Little Italy. It’s the kind of place with a casual atmosphere, quick service and a smell of garlic that makes you wonder why a perfume hasn’t been created to match that incredible scent. While enjoying the shrimp dressed in garlic cream sauce and penne pasta entwined with sweet Italian sausage, marinated red peppers and ripe tomatoes, it is hard to fathom why there is a 60 minute wait at the local Olive Garden a mere 15 minutes away. Amicci’s isn’t more expensive. The wait is minimal. The service is so efficient your young children don’t even have time to melt down and ruin the meal.

The big selling point for Amicci’s is the fact my meal tasted better than what I might be able to pull off at home. That never happens at Olive Garden. I always think I could have done a better job. Granted, I didn’t have dishes to wash afterwards, but a clean kitchen isn’t my only motivation for enjoying a night out. I wonder what the draw is to these chain restaurants with long waits, less than inspiring food and cookie cutter atmospheres. Could it be the commercials featuring happy ethnic people telling us the food is like Mama’s? In truth, we really don’t know how good of a cook their mama is/was. Is it the promise we will feel like family? Perhaps that little tiff with the waitress when we indicated we had no interest in hearing her wine selections (both non drinkers) was staged to feel like a spat with my sister. What about the draw of the giant black olives? I can’t be the only soul so in love with the black olives in their salads that my mind fails to remind me I can simply pop open a can from my pantry home. It’s a real possibility I have given Olive Garden business for years just to enjoy an olive tucked in with some lettuce.

As I sat in Amicci’s yesterday, I realized it is the kind of place that makes you feel good. The thought the small restaurant with unique appeal might some day lose the battle against the Olive Gardens of this world made me ill. Though my husband and I like to explore different places near us, we often fall into the trap of craving what a commercial has told us to crave. We shell over $40 of our hard earned money for an experience we will forget (or at least try to) in short order. In Amicci’s honor, we will do our best to keep that to a minimum moving forward. There are so many different experiences waiting to be enjoyed. It seems silly to spend any more hours crammed in a door entrance waiting for a hostess to allow us our turn at a meal of salt and cardboard.

2 Responses to “Sorry Olive Garden”

  1. At all the big chain restaurants, the food is standard and industrial. This includes them all –Outback Steakhouse, Charthouse, etc. There is a Cheescake Facotry in Honolulu, but I cannot imagine waiting in their constant 2-hour line for big portions of standard food. Not when there are so many great small regional restaurants around.

    On the subject of Italy, you should GO! (I know we had this conversation before, but it was about handbags!)… In Italy, eating is an event, an experience, one meant to savor and last hours. Plus, the food is surprisingly light and healthful, NOT ful of the heavy sauces and such you’d imagine.The ultimate is getting invited to someone’s home, where even on a schoolnight you get served a six course meal. I guess Italian food is hard to describe. But suffice to say, when the little gas station mini marts have the best Italian food you’ve ever had, you definitely KNOW you are in Italy! Ciao!!

  2. Holly says:

    You and Kris are right. All of those restaurants, Chili’s, Outback, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Fridays, etc., I can get a better steak or meal at home. (But I do enjoy the Cheesecake Factory)
    It’s the nothing more than convenience and popularity. Now that I don’t live in a big city any more, it’s a little harder to find the whole in the wall places that are good, I enjoy our little Michaelangelo’s pizza/pasta place 3 minutes from our house. It’s closer than Olive Garden, quicker, nice people and much tastier!