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Olive Garden's Culinary Institute in Tuscany?!

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Seen the latest Olive Garden commericals where they advertise that their chefs are schooled in the "secrets of Italian cooking" in Tuscany? Seemed hard to believe until I checked out their website and apparently it's true. Anyone tried one of these Tuscan inspired dishes lately at their local strip mall?

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  1. McD's has a hamburger university, it doesn;t make their food any good. Given that most of the stuff prepared by OG comes out of a can, box or freezer bag, what exactly do you think the curriculum is in Italy? Wouldn't you feel bad after going to Italy and sneaking out of the dorm for a real italian meal only to go back to the USA to serve what they serve?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Scrapironchef

      the elite mcdonald's managers step through a magic door into mcdonald land. mayor mccheese then presents them with the key to the city, and the grimace sings a song about french fries.

    2. I was reading the local paper( small town in SW Ontario) and saw a blurb and Mr. So and So would like to announce their grandson just came back from attending the OG culinary academy in Tuscany. I know its a small town and everthing( and I'm from a big city in the US), I laughed to myself. I mean, call me a food snob, but I wouldnt be proud of that.

      1. "And today class, we will be learning the proper way of storing our processed food in Food Saver storage bags..."
        -BnF

        1. I have actually eaten at Olive Garden several times and it's really decent food. Especially when I am in out of the way places, it is refreshing to have the choice. Do I prefer to keep my local Italian entrepreneurs here in San Francisco in business versus a big company?, sure, but when our kids were younger this was a great spot, just like Chevy's (which is right next door, so we'd see which waiting list went faster). Never regretted having the food one bit. We were always pleasantly surprised.

          1. olive garden isn't terrible. it's just uninteresting and inoffensive.

            my parents love it and drag me there all the time.

            1. When we saw the commercial the other night, I commented to DH that you would expect their food to be better, coming right out of Tuscany!

              1. Hmm.. "Olive Garden Culinary Institute"...

                I would place that in the pantheon of oxymorons, right up there with "military intelligence" and "Microsoft Works".

                1. why would you need to go to Tuscany to learn how to operate a microwave?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: coney with everything

                    greatest post ever... :-D

                    1. re: swsidejim

                      The microwaves at OG have Italian numbers on them ;)

                      1. re: mepm231

                        You mean Roman numerals?

                    2. re: coney with everything

                      Funny stuff. I saw the bit about the culinary institute on the OG menu or on something at the restaurant when I was dragged there with work friends several years ago (at least 8). I assumed it was some lame school that they paid an honorarium in order to buy themselves some cred. But then I read somewhere that it is really a lovely spot/school and that occasionally OG takes it over and uses it as a reward for general managers whose territories do exceptionally well in quarterly sales. So probably a bit of both.

                      1. re: southernitalian

                        I suspect rewarding managers/franchisees and holding stock analyst meetings are the two primary uses.

                    3. I used to work at Olive Garden in college...they actually do have a "cooking school" in Tuscany. I'm guessing their corp. chefs learn recipes there and then come back to the U.S. where they are mutated into these over processed creations. FYI...the ONLY thing thats fresh at OG is the Eggplant Parm.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: butrfli1227

                        Why eggplant parm? It freezes really well. How did you reheat things?

                        1. re: southernitalian

                          I was a server, so I don't know the logistics of some of it. The eggplants they actually sliced and prepared fresh. Sauces were shipped in big bags and heated in a vat of boiling water.

                          1. re: butrfli1227

                            ^^Not surprising to me in the least. FYI at Macaroni Grill they actually make their sauces every day.

                            1. re: rockandroller1

                              Once the delivery from the salt mines arrives.

                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                No, a few years ago mac grill also started getting all but alfredo sauce in bags

                              2. re: butrfli1227

                                Sounds completely unappetizing. I wonder where the sauces come from originally. Some restaurant supply chain? Olive Garden World Headquarters? It must be demoralizing to cook in a place like that if you have any real culinary aspirations.

                                1. re: wontonton

                                  I'm pretty sure all of their products came from their headquarters in Orlando.

                                  OG is owned by Darden Foods, which also owns Smokey Bones and Seasons 52 (which is actually fresh).

                            2. re: butrfli1227

                              I hope that the service team members are better informed now then when you were employed there. One trip into the heart of the house would have gave you a ton of pride in the cuisine. Daily, soups and sauces are made by culinary team members at 7 o clock in the morning. Also all the deliveries of the fresh produce are in the morning so that business isn't interrupted, this is probably why you were not aware of the process. I'm assuming you saw the eggplant made only because they ran out and had to make it by the order, which is inefficient in getting food out quickly and efficiently.

                            3. According to my calculations 14 people have commented on this thread so far, and about 3 of them have actually eaten the food at the place that is being demeaned. This is one of my serious peeves with ChowHound.

                              16 Replies
                              1. re: NoeMan

                                Don't forget the person who has worked there.

                                I've eaten there. When breadsticks are the best thing on the menu, you wonder just what they're doing in Tuscany.

                                1. re: Fibber McGee

                                  Especially since the bread sticks and made in mass produced plants, reheated for a couple of minutes at OG, tghen coated in Margarin & garlic salt. THAT IS NOT HOW THEY MAKE FOOD AT THE CHEAPEST OF PLACES IN ITALY.

                                  1. re: BostonBBQSociety

                                    That's it, then!
                                    Americans love garlic salt.

                                    1. re: Fibber McGee

                                      Please don't lump me in with the other Americans...garlic salt even as a concept is completely offensive to me (we only have it in the cupboard because the BF brought it with him when he moved in and I feel since I vetoed his Corona bottle salt and pepper shakers, he should have one of his only spices- the others being salt, pepper, seasoning salt, chili powder, and alum)

                                2. re: NoeMan

                                  I've also had the misfortune of eating @ Olive Garden back in the day.

                                  1. re: NoeMan

                                    I ate there too, before I knew better. I believe that OG is owned by General Mills so their sauces are probably ragu or something similar. Why eat a breadstick? You might as well just open your mouth and pour some white flour mixed with margarine and garlic salt down your gullet. Thats probably the worst bread I've ever eaten.

                                    1. re: Calipoutine

                                      I've eaten there dozens of times.

                                      1. re: Calipoutine

                                        They're good for dipping in ragu.

                                        1. re: Calipoutine

                                          Cali, I have to disagree with you there. There's LOTS of bread that's worse than OG's breadsticks.

                                          1. re: Suzy Q

                                            uh, yeah, my mum and dad love the breadsticks. i mean, they're wrong to crave them as they do, but they're not unpalatable.

                                          2. re: Calipoutine

                                            No OG is owned by Darden, as the above poster stated. Darden also operates Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones and Seasons 52. Interestingly enough, I graduated from hospitality school and was tested on this info!

                                            1. re: Mag454

                                              Darden was a split off from General Mills a very long time ago.

                                          3. re: NoeMan

                                            What are you basing your count on? I've been there, not going back unless forced to by circumstance.

                                            1. re: Scrapironchef

                                              I agree, Scrapironchef--Noeman, what makes you think we HAVEN'T eaten there? I've eaten at OG a few times, only once where it was my idea (the commercial made the food look so delicious...) That was the time that the food was OBVIOUSLY microwaved--cold in spots, hot in others.

                                              I'll only go there if it's a business situation and someone that I have to be nice to suggests OG. It's not just one location--I've consumed food at 3 different OG's and each was vile.

                                              And Swsidejim, thanks for the shoutout!

                                            2. re: NoeMan

                                              Please, Let me add my voice to the debate, I have eaten at OG on 4 occasions, twice in New Jersey, once in Maine, and once in Manhattan. Before I go any further, I must confess that I am not a huge fan of Italian food, or food that profess to be as such. I found the offerings to be over salted, over cooked, over processed, and generally an insult to the every thing Italian. I know I paint a broad brush, but having had the opportunity to actually sit , drink and eat at not 1, but 4 of these restaurants, I have no other choice but to conclude that we as consumers have come to value substandard food and lots of it over quality, taste, and rational portions.Bread sticks , anyone?

                                              1. re: NoeMan

                                                I've eaten there a couple times (in Orlando, when it was the only place in sight even claiming to be Italian, outside of Pizza Hut). Trust me, it sucks. With great velocity.

                                              2. Here's a funny and classic thread from Egullet about the Olive Garden in Times square( with pics).

                                                http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?s...

                                                1. Just because they use the term "inspired by Tuscan cooking" it certainly doesn't mean it truly is "Tuscan." Is a McDonald's in Rome "Italian Food"? Similarly, there is currently a cat food commercial that begins with a "slow roasted chicken breast, served on a bed of rice and herbs," which serves as the inspiration for Fancy Feast Cat Food.
                                                  Tuscan food is fairly simple, utilizing local ingredients such as olive oil, basil, rosemary, tomatoes, cheese, fish (it has a coastline to the west), meat, pork and chicken. But most of the glop served at OG takes those ingredients and then adds too much, too many, wrong combinations, etc., and calls it "Tuscan."

                                                  Or, as an old joke from Maine used to say, "Just because a cat has her kittens in the stove, don't make 'em biscuits."

                                                  1. P.S. I've eaten in an OG once, and would never voluntarily return, nor would I deign to call it Italian. At least not the Italian I know from more than 120 days there through the years.

                                                    1. Friends always want to go to this place. We have 2 in our city and I've gone at least 10x in the last 15 years. Yes that is alot of times, and I may be under-exaggerating !! (Did I mention a friend always suggests this place. arrgh!) It's on my list of places I don't like to go to but, it's not on my list of "never set foot in there again" I think they like this place because you get unlimited salad/bread sticks with a meal that's $15.99. They must think this unlimited stuff is the bees-knees..?? Good value for your money?? I hate to disappoint so usually suck it up and indulge them. I don't mind their soup.

                                                      About 3 years ago I swore I'd NEVER eat the pasta there again though (exception - ravioli, it's edible). It was the last of so many bad tasting, poorly prepared garbagey pasta dishes. I found it such a waste of an eating experience. I was just disgusted in how they could desecrate pasta. Now if we eat there I usually get something that comes with potatoes like their chicken marsala dish. And I find it...meh

                                                      1. The OG website's description of the "Institute" has a lot of references to managers, not cooks or chefs:

                                                        http://www.olivegarden.com/press/fact...

                                                        It seems more like a corporate boondoggle/reward for managers than a cooking school. It's also impressive-sounding if you don't stop to think about it. Ooh, Tuscany.

                                                        1. Ok, Sweepstakes on Travel Network to win a week in Tuscany and a Weekend in the OG Culinary Institute. Those of us who have always had that "Fly on the wall" dream better get cracking. Just , for the sake of all your CH family, Lie like hell on the application." May the force be with you"

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: currymouth

                                                            My jaw dropped when I saw this promo. I mean, I had always assumed OG's Tuscan Culinary Institute was uh, you know... imaginary. Way to be brick-and-mortar! Who knew!?

                                                            When "Tuscan" stops being a favorable culinary buzzword, I bet the "Institute" closes!

                                                            1. re: The Engineer

                                                              Or morphs into "The Macaroni Grill Foundation" of upper Umbria.

                                                              1. re: currymouth

                                                                Geesh, this whole time I thought that I was eating real Tuscany Food!
                                                                Hit me in the head with a breadstick!
                                                                -BnF

                                                              2. re: The Engineer

                                                                wonder what the NEXT buzzword will be....

                                                                Provencal? Etruscan? Florentine? Calabrese??

                                                                Is the Tuscan Culinary Institute really in Tuscany? And does it matter--what's the percentage of Americans that couldn't locate Italy on a map, much less Tuscany? Just change the sign.

                                                            2. I heard it is real, but no one has been there; probablyu used ot develop menus. The cluinary institute is run by Cavit, a/k/a Cavit wine (the cheap wine that OG sells $5/glass for wine you can buy in the store of $6).

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: BostonBBQSociety

                                                                I heard it's nothing but an executive retreat.

                                                              2. Eaten there... not speaking bad... but another poster got it DEAD on..

                                                                "olive garden isn't terrible. it's just uninteresting and inoffensive"

                                                                which I find offensive. With great velocity, as well.

                                                                ugh.

                                                                Thanks for posting the faq sheet. Must be a manager's retreat. Could you imagine going on a retreat with 99 other Olive Garden managers?

                                                                1. Youse guys is funny.

                                                                  I always loved the commercial with "Tuscan chefs" poring over pots of "inspired Tuscan cuisine" to perfect their "authentic Tuscan recipes", such as Three Cheese Shrimp with Alfredo Sauce. I swear they stroke their beards and nod enthusiastically after tasting a spoonful.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: yamalam

                                                                    They shake their heads, and stroke their beards, and cluck their tongues, and dazzle themselves with their wiley intelligence.

                                                                  2. I was dragged to an Olive Garden last week for the first time and have to say that I was pleasantly surprised and mildly impressed with the menu. There were a number of interesting sounding dishes. That's where the Tuscan inspiration comes from-- writing the names and descriptions of the dishes.

                                                                    Once I tasted the food I realized why this chain gets no respect. I don't think I've ever eaten anything saltier-- and I once ate a whole bag of salt. Chewy pasta, bland tomato sauce, over-cooked shrimp.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: andrewr

                                                                      i caught that futurama reference!

                                                                    2. When 70%+ of the population thinks Italian is Domino's pizza and Chef Boy-R-Dee Spaghetti-os, places like the OG thrive because they offer a different spin on the average perception. It's the same phenom that influences many people to think the best Chinese restaurants are those with the biggest AUCE buffets, or that gets Taco Bell listed under Mexican in local yellow pages or newspaper dining guides. OG and Macaroni Grill are successful because they play on these perceptions. Those CH who have eaten through an entire afternoon at a small Piedmont trattoria know the difference, but try to convey that to the average family of 4 on a limited budget in a small town looking for something different, but not too different, from what they eat every night in front of the HDTV.

                                                                      1. We rented a house outside Greve, in the Chianti section of Tuscany a few years ago. While driving on a dirt road not far from the town of Panzano (home of the Famous Dario the Butcher), we saw a small Olive Garden sign with an arrow pointing to a smaller dirt road that went up a hill through a vineyard. Intrigued, we followed the road, which brought us to an old Borgo (hamlet) located on top of the hill. All the buildings in the old Borgo had been restored and the entire hamlet had been turned into a hotel. It's a really beautiful place. We found a staff member, and asked about the Olive Garden thing. They told us that they rent the place out once in a while and run a cooking school for a week.
                                                                        That said, I've never set foot in an Olive Garden in my life. :-)

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: cranrob

                                                                          Rob - never been in an Olive Garden? I know where we are going for lunch next time you're in MD! Friends dragging friends to Olive Garden - if it weren't for that, the place would be empty...

                                                                          1. re: cranrob

                                                                            Tis true, The training is intensive and specific to Tuscany Region cuisine and Wine.

                                                                          2. I had a nice little laugh at this tonight. I went to OG with my mom and dad for my dad's 59th b-day and saw this crap on the top and bottom of the menu about their "culinary institute" in Italy. When my dad brought this up I assured him in confidence not a single one of the Mexicans or junior college students in the back reheating premade food had ever been to Italy let alone this fake institute. We both thought it was completely absurd. Something for top management and that no demi-glace or fresh pasta was being made at that culinary school. I went on to order the pasta e fagioli which wasn't bad. Then for my entree I got the braised beef and tortelloni. The beef and sauce were like something out of a can. Salty and cooked to fuck. The pasta was overdone too. Our waitress seemed like she was tweeking. All wound up coming over every 5 minutes annoying us and spilling wine on the table. Cheap wine she claimed was good "because it was imported." Lots of shit is imported, doesn't automatically make it good. Theres not much to choose from in my little town, but I think my days of going to chains like OG are over. I can make better food at home with the right ingredients and a little time. :)

                                                                            1. Im not going to try to defend the OGs food, but I am a OG cook and am going to the CIT in this winter. They send us over in small groups: the cooks, the servers/bartenders, the managers to learn about the culture that they are trying to portray (another point I wont try to defend). I am excited about my trip, obviously, and think that Riserva di Fizzano looks beautiful (www.riservadifizzano.com)

                                                                              19 Replies
                                                                              1. re: buttonwood1

                                                                                So fill us in; what comes in boil-in-bag pouches, or frozen, in cans, etc., and what is truly made "from scratch." We're getting mixed signals here -- we've been led to believe that the mid-level chains' business model is to ensure consistency and take advantage of economies of scale by cooking as much as possible at a central "factory," and then distributing to all the locations. But another poster here said everything is from scratch.

                                                                                1. re: buttonwood1

                                                                                  I think OG serves a purpose and is not the worst place. (My kids love it).
                                                                                  When you say they send servers and bartenders to Italy for training, I have doubts about your involvement.
                                                                                  The turnover of servers and bartenders would make it impossible to send them to Italy for training given the cost.

                                                                                  1. re: otps

                                                                                    I suspect that it's a reward for high performing employees. You know like- Person who leads the regional territory in sales of the new Mozzarella Shirmp Pizza Poppers gets a trip to Italy in the spring if they're still working there.

                                                                                    No different than what the car companies and many other retail businesses have done over the years.

                                                                                  2. re: buttonwood1

                                                                                    You're an Olive Garden cook?!? I didn't know Microwave Ovens could type posts for a message board! ;) ;)

                                                                                    Seriously though, as Beachmouse said earlier...did your restaurant win a sales award (serious question) in order for you to get the trip to Italy? Surely they don't train all the chefs in Tuscany, with the number of locations you have. I still don't think they train *any* but agree with beachmouse that it's a reward type of place.

                                                                                    1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                                                                      So, is there some OG operative who signs into CH using various aliases to spread misinformation? We've got several one-time posters who claim to work at OG and claim it's all fresh food, etc.; then they don't follow up.

                                                                                      1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                                                                        As a former OG employee of over ten years (that had worked every position in the restaurant) i do have to say that when i first started working there it only had one microwave and it was not used on the line. It was used only to heat desserts.Allmost all the food was cooked from scratch. Now to ensure consistancy some items such as art dip,fried mozz and zucc,pizza dough,chicken parm,manicotti and some others come pre made or breaded. All these items used to be made fresh in house. Many years ago they even used to make fresh pasta in house. All soups and sauces (except tomatoe) are made fresh every day. They are made in batches of up to 10 gallons at a time then bagged and chilled to be reheated as needed. Veggies are cut every day and packed in little portion baggies to control waste. Same thing with proteins. Lasagna is made every day from scratch. Ran out of space .

                                                                                        1. re: cameronaus

                                                                                          I don't see how

                                                                                          "All soups and sauces (except tomatoe) are made fresh every day."

                                                                                          and

                                                                                          "They are made in batches of up to 10 gallons at a time then bagged and chilled to be reheated as needed"

                                                                                          go together.

                                                                                          If the soups are made "fresh" every day, why they heck are they chilled? Why not just keep them simmering?

                                                                                          1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                                                                            I could understand bagging in order to control portion size, but what happens with the leftover bags? You've vacuumed packed all this product, which will keep frozen for a year, and you're telling me it gets thrown out every day because the sauces are "fresh?" I'm not saying cameronaus is making this up, I'm just saying it doesn't make business sense to go to that seemingly unneccessary trouble and then toss it out each day.

                                                                                            1. re: sbp

                                                                                              Right.

                                                                                              I mean, Chef Boyardee make spaghetti and meatballs every day too, but then they store it in cans for how long?

                                                                                              1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                                                                                I'd actually love to see a real "tell all" by someone from OG, Friday's, Applebee's, etc., as to just what is cooked and what is "reheated." Every now and then, someone asks the question, but the responses are never from actual employees. And as per a few of the posts above (not camerononus - he at least has a page of posts), you get some "one-timers" whose credibility is suspect, to say the least.

                                                                                                1. re: sbp

                                                                                                  sbp if you want anything specific let me know.
                                                                                                  Ralphie in Boston most restaurants run this way. Instead of jumping to conclusions all you have to do is ask.

                                                                                                  I will say this,after many years working at the OG i could no longer eat there.The food is to rich and salty . Most sauces started with butter . If i did eat at work it was something i created myself.

                                                                                                  1. re: cameronaus

                                                                                                    Hi Cameronaus...I *did* indeed ask, and you answered. Thanks for all that info. I just wanted to know exactly what you meant by "made fresh every day" Yes, most *chain* restaurants are run that way, with portion and freshness control, and it does make perfect sense.

                                                                                                    There's a chain of sandwich/soup places in Boston (with branches all over but I think they're based in Boston) called Au Bon Pain. They have a good variety of soups which are made in large batches at their HQ and re-heated at the chain locations. Not surprisingly they are absolutely loaded with salt.

                                                                                              2. re: sbp

                                                                                                Bagging is done mostly to control waste. Waste is tracked very closely on a computer . If a certain item is not selling well they will prep less of that item. Items are built to pars (build to numbers) everyday. Produce comes every day except Sun. The OG i worked at spent about $250 a day on produce. Product from the company came once a week on a 18 wheeler.

                                                                                              3. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                                                                                I never said it is thrown out every day, soups and sauces had a three day shelf life. Other items are usually one or two day shelf life.When the items are bagged a little sticker called a day dot is attached in the seal of the bag for whatever day the item needs to sell by. Every morning the opening manager has to go over all product and set aside the out of date items. Some items that have been cooked can be frozen and are given to a local homeless kitchen. Raw product is thrown away b/c of liability issues. All items are tracked on spreadsheets to see what customer preference is. Every day prep emp. are given tally lists to prep how many of each items. I am not trying to tell you everything is fresh and cooked to order or that there are chefs in the kitchen (most are from central america or mexico and work two or more jobs)but you would be surprised how long it takes to prep the food.

                                                                                                1. re: cameronaus

                                                                                                  Thanks. Very interesting peek into the nuts and bolts of chain-think. I don't think the layman is aware of the degree to which everything is quantified and statistically analyzed. Really, the PC has made an enormous impact on the ability of a restaurant to squeeze profit from the operation. My guess is that an owner without computer programs tightly monitoring every item ordered against the ingredients used doesn't have the time to do that analysis with the same degree of accuracy, and that such an ability to fine tune ordering/inventory is a good part of the reason why a chain can survive while seemingly selling food at such a low cost.

                                                                                                  1. re: sbp

                                                                                                    sbp you are correct . The computer plays a big part in keeping track of all areas of the restaurant in chain life. We tracked everything on a daily or weekly basis from food production to liquor or food waste. Product and produce ordering are based on last year sales and customer preference, all calculated on the computer.

                                                                                            2. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                                                                                              Part 2: In recent years more and more items where comming in premade to make shure all OGs tasted the same and could serve more people. The culinary school is mostly a perk for top performers in the company . All the Culinary managers get to go. Only one hourly employee from each region got to go once a year.

                                                                                              1. re: cameronaus

                                                                                                Olive Garden's sauces and all soups are made fresh EVERY day. They cook them in huge batches in the morning. As you can imagine they sell a ton of it. They are then put in one gallon bags to preserve the freshness and yield. They are then heated up to temperature one bag at a time throughout the day so they are not left in a "vat". They also recieve deliverys of fresh produce every other day in order to make their soups and sauces. If you have ever tried the minestrone for example, you know that if these ingredients came frozen it would be a mushy mess. Unfortunately, the previous poster who works for Olive Garden has not been properly informed of the process. It is understandable however that it would be misinterpreted due to the fact that the service team only knows what they see. By the time they arrived to work the culinary team has finished there production lists for obvious reasons to delight the guests when they arrive.

                                                                                                1. re: tracylaf

                                                                                                  If you had taken the time to read my posts you might have noticed i have worked all positions including back of the house for many years . Having been a CA , I do infact know what i am talking about. Some sauces and soups are made every other day . I checked in produce every day but Sunday. I will say the OG was the best place i had ever worked for food safety.

                                                                                          2. Wasn't Jacques Pepin a consultant for Howard Johnson's for a number of years? And when he speaks of that period in his career, he speaks with great respect about that company. and experience Classy guy.

                                                                                            It's a damned if you do or damned if you don't: If Olive Garden tries to be better, it is laughed at on this board. But if they didn't, it would still be laughed at on this board. Go figure.

                                                                                            1. We stayed at Riserva di Fizzano for five nights in 2007 and enjoyed some fantastic meals in their restaurant (home of the Culinary Institute of Tuscany). Here's a link to their website: http://www.riservadifizzano.com

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: kreastman

                                                                                                Not a word about OG on the website... no surprise. Sounds like they rent a couple of rooms for a few days once a year, and make it sound like they train everyone in Tuscany. A joke, and very smarmy of them.

                                                                                                Of course, anybody that's been to Italy would know that it just ain't true, and there's nothing on the menu even faintly resembling the food on the other side of the pond! Ask an OG server for Ribollita, the premier dish of Tuscany! (Think you'll get a blank stare?)

                                                                                              2. http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/homest...
                                                                                                http://www.jaunted.com/story/2010/4/2...

                                                                                                1. Okay they may learn how to cook Italian here in Italy, but it's no where near the same! The recipes alone are different. I've lived here in Italy for going on 4 yrs now and have visited Tuscany twice. Half the stuff on the menu is Americanized Italian. You want real Italian? Go to an Italian restaurant that is family owned with the family being Italian and from Italy. That's were you will get the closest you can to Italian food without having to visit Italy.

                                                                                                  1. Gotta add this part as well. EVERYTHING MADE AT AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT IN ITALY IS MADE FRESH!!!! So there is no guess work on how long something has been stored.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: spiffychick82

                                                                                                      Every region of Italy has different cuisines. There's really NO "Italian" food in Italy, it's based on the region you are in and the time of year. Ribollita in Tuscany, Bagna Cauda in Piemonte, Fegato in the Veneto, Bucatini in Abruzzo, and so on.

                                                                                                      It's especially laughable when some restos in the States characterize themselves as "Northern Italian". Which of course, is a ruse, and means absolutely nothing, since there is no such thing in Italy as "Northern Italian".

                                                                                                    2. Olive Garden's facility in Italy is nothing really more than a feel-good PR ploy. The food at OG speaks for itself. A nice alternative to chain burger joints, but nothing really enduring.

                                                                                                      1. Not like this is a shock or anything...
                                                                                                        http://www.slashfood.com/2011/04/14/t...

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: coney with everything

                                                                                                          I think everyone on this tread realized it was a ruse...

                                                                                                          And as I said, Italy features Regional Cuisine... The food prepared there depends on the area you are in. There's NOTHING on the OG menu that even remotely resembles food available in Italy!

                                                                                                          1. re: menton1

                                                                                                            What, you mean "Herb Cheese Soffatelli" as featured at OG is not "cucina autentica"?

                                                                                                            You mean their invented spelling of "sfogiatelle" (a pastry usually filled with sweetened mascarpone) won't be found on the menus in Firenze, or Milano, Torino, Roma, Napoli, etc.

                                                                                                            Next you'll be telling me that Italians usually sauce their pastas lightly, rather than spooning cups of the stuff on top of huge mounds of pasta.

                                                                                                            Next you'll be telling me that they use more butter than olive oil in their cooking in Northern Italy. You mean the cuisine of the Veneto differs from that of Emilia-Romagna? Wow! What a surprise.

                                                                                                            Do you think the Olive Garden chefs know this?

                                                                                                            1. re: Coco Pazzo

                                                                                                              Lol.