I visited a location in Rochester, New York for the primary time in years to see why the chain is having such a second.
An indication on the door marketed to-go choices, which turned key to eating places’ survival in 2020 and now make up 27% of gross sales, dad or mum firm Darden stated in a September earnings name.
Inside, Olive Backyard seemed precisely as a remembered it, in what the chain calls a “Tuscan Farmhouse” model.
The immediately recognizable model consists of stone facades, wooden particulars, columns, and archways.
Ceiling beams and doorways all through the restaurant make it really feel extra intimate and comfortable, breaking apart the big constructing into smaller, quieter areas.
I’ve by no means been to Italy, so I can not say the design jogs my memory of any specific area, however it immediately looks like Olive Backyard once I stroll inside.
An enormous a part of the center of the restaurant is taken up by the bar, which was principally empty once I visited, whereas seating areas had been extra full.
The bar space appeared to be serving as a makeshift bussing station.
Wine performs an enormous half within the restaurant’s decor, with a wall embellished with bottles.
Partitions are additionally embellished all through with prints of Italian scenes.
Taking the theme extraordinarily actually, tables are divided by fake olive timber.
We walked previous all of the Olive Backyard-core stone facades and partitions of wine to get to a desk at the back of the restaurant. Though it was pretty busy for a weeknight, we had been seated instantly.
Regardless of cuts, all of the classics you’d anticipate from Olive Backyard had been nonetheless there: hen parm, fettuccine alfredo, limitless soup, salad, and breadsticks, and create your individual pasta.
They solely got here in baskets of three at a time, however that did not cease us. We polished off the primary basket rapidly, perhaps embarrassingly so.
For an appetizer, we determined to lean into the breadsticks with the $4.99 limitless dipping sauces.
We began out with a basic marinara, which was an incredible complement to the breadsticks.
I believed it was scrumptious and pretty giant for the $6.50 price ticket.
My fiance ordered a glass of wine, which was cheap and “high quality” in his evaluate.
Drinks had been served from this station close to our desk, which had a couple of dozen bottles of wine and a wine fridge.
Each entrees got here with the choice of a soup or salad. My fiance went with the home salad, which got here on this gigantic serving bowl.
Olive Backyard servers may also grate cheese on absolutely anything you order, which we took full benefit of.
The soup was so creamy and satisfying that I virtually regretted not selecting the limitless soup and salad for my entree.
Whereas we ate our soups and salads, the breadsticks saved coming.
We selected the alfredo dipping sauce for the following spherical.
By this level, we had been each beginning to decelerate after a number of rounds of breadsticks, plus heavy sauces and soup.
We powered by means of, although, as a result of our entrees got here out a couple of minutes later.
I ordered the create your individual pasta with rigatoni, five-cheese marinara, and topped with meatballs.
In fact, I topped it with extra grated cheese.
As soon as I began consuming it, I used to be glad I bought the pasta. It was hearty and acquainted, good for a cool, wet fall day.
My fiance went for the height Olive Backyard expertise with the Tour of Italy, which incorporates hen parmesan, fettuccine Alfredo, and lasagna.
A plate filled with tacky carbs, it was precisely what you anticipate once you stroll into Olive Backyard.
Predictably, we quickly had to surrender our aspirations of ending this large meal.
It is almost not possible to tempo your self with breadsticks and save room in your meal, however why would you should? You possibly can all the time convey it dwelling with you.
The massive servings, notably the Tour of Italy, do not even appear supposed to be eaten in a single sitting.
Our waitress introduced us to-go packing containers to pack up our meals, together with the remaining breadsticks.
They reheated nice for lunch the following day.
When it was time to pay, the server directed us to the small pill on the desk which had an itemized invoice and the choice to separate the test, name over the server, or order extra meals.
The whole meal got here out to $59 earlier than tip.
Enterprise has picked for Olive Backyard after a decelerate earlier within the pandemic.
Similar-store gross sales are up over 37% at Olive Backyard, Darden reported in its most up-to-date earnings name, and month-to-month visits have been hovering round 2019 ranges and even surpassing them, Placer.ai discovered.
Only a few years in the past, full-service chains like Olive Backyard had been on the decline, with criticisms from buyers and prospects alike.
Although there are shortages of meals, supplies, and nearly every little thing else proper now, you’d by no means understand it inside Olive Backyard, the place you may see mountains of pasta and countless breadsticks. It feels indulgent and comforting, perfect for this second.
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