Olive Garden Italian Restaurant
Cherry Hill, NJ
Price Paid: $50.16 (for two and includes tip)
Time: Thursday, 6:45 PM
Contrary to popular belief, all Olive Gardens are not created equal. An Olive Garden at what-will-remain-an-undisclosed-location in Delaware once messed up my chicken parmigiana, an Italian restaurant chain staple, beyond taste recognition! The Olive Garden in Cherry Hill, NJ (located just down the road from the Cherry Hill Mall) is consistently good – not outstanding – and also consistently crowded. I’ll assume for this review that at least one of our discerning readers has never been to an Olive Garden (imagine that!).
Olive Garden houses a rather comfortable “Italian-esque” décor – wooden tables, cozy booths and chairs, dim lighting, wine bottles everywhere. There are vines and plants covering the beige walls. The restaurant was extremely crowded on this Thursday night, but my small party of two was quick to be seated. I could barely hear my friend from across our table in the middle of the dining room floor. Our waiter was quick to welcome us and take our drink order. My friend and I are no strangers to Olive Garden – we knew what we wanted to eat and ordered promptly after receiving our drinks.
The salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden are always terrific. The salad is basic – iceberg lettuce, a few tomatoes, black olives, one or two whole jalapeno peppers. It is the delicious house dressing that really sets the salad apart. The dressing tastes like a homemade vinaigrette. The salads I’ve gotten have always been well tossed with just enough dressing and served with chilled plates (a little upscale touch I love!). The breadsticks are served hot and coated with a touch of garlic powder. I could eat nothing but salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden and go home happy. As a plus, the salad and breadsticks both have unlimited refills.
My entree was the “Garlic-Herb Chicken con Broccoli.” My friend ordered the “Chicken Parmigiana.” She said her dish was terrific, as usual. Not having tasted it, I’ll have to take her at her word. I’ve had the “Garlic-Herb Chicken con Broccoli” before and, on this Thursday night, it was as delicious as always. This entree has rosemary-seasoned chicken breasts sauteed with fresh broccoli in a garlic cream sauce over orecchiette pasta. The chicken melted in my mouth. The cream sauce was perfect; it has a nice garlic flavor and a good consistency (it is not thick like a alfredo sauce, which I do not care for). If you prefer pasta “al dente,” I would specifically ask your server to mention that to the cook. I’ve never had “al dente” pasta at Olive Garden without asking for it.
I ordered a piece of “Pumpkin Cheesecake” (a seasonal dessert) to bring home for my mom. I, of course, helped myself to a bite (or three). I was surprised at how good it was. I don’t typically like pumpkin dishes outside of pumpkin pie. The flavor was not overwhelmingly pumpkin and the cheesecake layer was moist and heavenly. It was topped with fresh whipped cream (which was melted by the time I got home) that complemented the pumpkin layer. If you like chocolate, you’ll likely find a dessert for you at Olive Garden. I don’t recommend the tiramisu, however, if you don’t really like the taste of expresso and liquor.
The service at Olive Garden is usually very nice. Our waiter on this particular night was slightly strange. I don’t understand the purpose of asking “Did your drinks come out ok?” since we both got water, but I’ll chalk it up to lack of experience. Good food, good service, reasonable prices – what’s not to like at Olive Garden? It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s certainly a great place to bring a date (take notes, guys!). On a Friday or Saturday night, just make sure you don’t mind waiting at least an hour for a table. Olive Gardens tend to get very crowded and the one in Cherry Hill is no exception.
Our Score: 3.75 Chews
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