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OLIVE GARDEN Comes On Strong

Olive Garden has been the top Italian restaurant in Las Vegas for so long, I thought it was time I reviewed it.

My latest visit was during mid-afternoon, so I could be sure to get in. After a late breakfast (everyone knows how I like my late breakfasts!), I figured a late lunch would be fashionable.

This place is impressive. It is fashioned in a Tuscan farmhouse style with a big, welcoming entryway. It has big double doors for easy access and seating for those who are waiting, which I didn’t have to do.

My table was near the back of the restaurant and I watched the waiters in white shirts, ties, black trousers and aprons adorned with gold-colored towels. Even at midday, they were busy punching in orders and carrying out bread and pasta. My waitress’ name was Kathy and she couldn’t have been any nicer.

It had been a few years since I ate at the Olive Garden on the Strip, so I studied the two, manageable menus offering appetizers, soups, salads, grilled sandwiches, pizza, classic dishes, chicken and seafood and filled pastas. Boy, was there a lot to look at! Thankfully, the printing was large, bright and easy to read, as was the lighting. It reminded me of the last hospital I stayed in.

As I sat in the broad, comfortable chair — on wheels and with nice, substantial arm rests — I asked Kathy what she would recommend. She suggested the  Tour of Italy and I went with that. Instead of a glass of the pink wine (that she let me sample) I drank water. With ice cubes.

She first brought me the familiar Olive Garden salad bowl with crisp greens, onion rings and yes — several black olives. Along with it came a basket with three long, warm breadsticks. Butter came also. Like a freight train.

The Tour of Italy ($17.50) looked just like the picture on the menu. It had fettuccine Alfredo, lasagna and chicken Parmesan on the plate, all served piping hot. Kathy willingly shredded Parmesan cheese all over everything. Even as she tried to stop, I would insist upon more, and she would comply, resisting gently at first, and then submit, with a sly smile and without complaint. Kathy’s a real pro that way.

As I ate, I noticed planters with permanent flower displays on the ledges, as well as bottles of wine that the restaurant proudly displays for you to choose from. There is also an attractive bar area right behind the entryway serving a full array of mixed cocktails and wines to complement Italian meals.

An olive branch on menu items signified low-fat entrees. There is a Garden Fare Nutrition Guide available for customers seeking gluten-free food. And for those with food allergies, Olive Garden has an Allergen Information Guide. If you are allergic to bad Italian food, there are many guideposts on the menu for you as well.

All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating at 1361 S. Decatur Boulevard. It attracts visitors from out of town as well as people who live here.

On a hot summer’s day, I will try the raspberry lemonade that was recommended…and to get Kathy’s phone number.

OLIVE GARDEN

1361 South Decatur Boulevard

Las Vegas, NV 89102

702.258.3453

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