Side: Salad with Italian Dressing
I never get to travel. The last time I went anywhere for an extended period of time was Temecula last year to work on a pilot. Temecula is a hot and dusty town 2 hours southeast of Los Angeles that consists of mini-malls, wineries, and dudebros from the nearby military base looking to start fights. It’s a lovely town.
I picked her up and explained the situation: we were going to Olive Garden in Glendale because I have a Never Ending Pasta Pass. My bowl of pasta is free, hers is not, but she gets a free drink. She was skeptical at first, having not eaten at Olive Garden in over a decade, but warmed up to the idea after doing the math.
A hundred bucks for a 2 month long pasta buffet? That's what America is all about. This is why we came to this country. To one day have the opportunity to eat unlimited amounts of mediocre food. She was in.
We got there early, not even 7pm. It was strange going to Olive Garden while the sun was still out. I pulled into the parking structure, but the usual parking attendant wasn’t there. I was disappointed — there would be no rapport with this stranger.
We finally got seated and met our waiter, Steve. He was young and awkward and got flustered when I told him I had a Pasta Pass. After showing him the pass, my drivers license, and verifying with his manager that yes, it's that weirdo who's been here all week, he took our order.
As I looked around at the other tables, I wondered about all the other people eating there. People who didn't have a Pasta Pass, people who ate there because they were genuine fans of Olive Garden. At the table next to us, a woman was celebrating her birthday. Three waiters lit a small cake and sang a snappy rendition of happy birthday.
Steve brought us breadsticks, my mom’s Minestrone, and my gigantic bowl of salad. It could have easily fed 3 people. I was glad it wasn’t drenched in too much dressing. That salad was my main source of nutrition for the day. My mom inhaled her soup and ate half of my gigantic bowl of salad. She was not fucking around.
Almost immediately, my mom said her pasta was too salty. I saw this coming. Everything is too salty for her at this point. My fettuccine was okay. The roasted mushrooms were actually legit too salty, but the noodles were good and the sauce itself was decent, the breadcrumbs giving it nice texture.
As we left the restaurant, I took one last peek at the bar to see if Gym Clothes Guy was there. He was not. Our Pasta Pass friendship would have to bloom some other day.
My mom handed the manager our parking ticket to validate. He asked her how her meal was. “It was fine.” A scathing review. Perhaps she realized that taking a road trip to Olive Gardena sounds better than it really is.