Growing up, my family never let me eat at Olive Garden. I come from a pretty large Italian family, so the idea of eating Italian food that wasn't prepared by my mom or grandma was at best disgusting, and at worst, sacrilege.

Italian food was a staple in my home. I grew up on a solid diet of pasta, cheese, and bread, and every Christmas, my home was filled with the smell of two huge lasagnas cooking. I remember my mom cutting her finger making gnocchi during the Torino Olympics, and I remember learning how to make my own red sauce before I could ride a bike. (I learned how to ride a bike REALLY late in life). 

The Story

I had never eaten at this faux-Italian mecca of breadsticks before my freshman year of high school. I'd heard people talk about liking it, but I was generally pretty skeptical and didn't feel like I was missing out on much. I mean, they don't even salt their pasta water

The Taste Test

As soon as I told the rest of my team that I had never eaten at Olive Garden, everyone freaked out. "BUT HOW," they exclaimed, practically throwing breadsticks at my face. 

I ate the breadsticks. They were fine, not great, didn't really live up to the hype. Then I moved on to the salad, again, not great, but decently fresh. For dinner, I ordered ravioli, which I generally LOVE.

However, as soon as I took a bite, I wasn't impressed. The cream sauce had little flavor, the pasta wasn't quite cooked enough in some places, and overcooked in other places. It was okay, but not good by any stretch of the imagination. To make matters worse, I ended up going home with a pretty nasty stomachache. Not the best thing to eat before running.

I ended up going to Olive Garden once a year every year after that, again for the state cross country competition. The next year, I wised up a little, and got red sauce to avoid the stomach pain, which was delicious if you enjoy the taste of pureed tomatoes without seasoning. 

The Verdict

I don't feel remotely slighted by having a childhood without Olive Garden, in fact, I'm pretty grateful to my parents for not letting me eat food from the kind of monsters who don't salt their pasta or put cheese on fish dishes.

I haven't eaten Olive Garden since high school, and I heard that recently they've gone on a campaign to improve their food quality and boost sales, so maybe it's gotten better, but I'm not willing to chance it.

I'll stick to my grandma's homemade red sauce and my mom's gnocchi, thanks.