When you’re here, you’re family

I don’t really have strong feelings about the Olive Garden restaurants. To me, they kind of mirror suburbia. Their not real authentic and kind of bland, but they’re safe. I recently heard it said that Mitt Romney resembles a real American in the same way that the Olive Garden resembles life in Italy. Not sure if that’s a bigger shot at Romney or the Olive Garden. What most people talk about when going to an Olive Garden is the never-ending salad bowl and the bread sticks. I ask you, where else in your life do you ever desire a never-ending salad? And if you keep craving more, I swear they must be slipping MSG in there somewhere. And bread sticks? Okay. You never hear much about the pasta.

In the past week, the ol’ OG has been in the headlines twice. Relax, OG, neither puts you in a negative light. In fact, one puts you in quite the rosy glow.

Four Stars

First was the restaurant review in the Grand Forks Herald. I’m not saying that things are slow up there in North Dakota, but apparently, they’ve been patiently waiting for this Olive Garden to arrive, and mmmm, boy, was it worth the wait! The review was written by Marilyn Hagerty, an adorable octogenarian who takes her assignment very seriously, as she should. Her review covers the entryway to the exit. No slipping anything past Marilyn, “The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting.” That’s right, if you have to wait for a table, you can sit. Don’t underestimate how important this fact is to Marilyn’s peers in the canasta club.

I studied the two manageable menus offering appetizers, soups and salads, grilled sandwiches, pizza, classic dishes, chicken and seafood and filled pastas. At length, I asked my server what she would recommend. She suggested chicken Alfredo, and I went with that. Instead of the raspberry lemonade she suggested, I drank water.

Do you think she spared us the server’s eye roll? Or maybe she just didn’t notice it. I can’t be sure, but I do believe that suggesting chicken Alfredo is restaurant code for “It’s all the same. I can’t believe they gave me another table. Will you just frickin’ order already!! I have to go on break!” And if you’re reviewing a restaurant, by all means, forgo the fancy lemonade drink and just have water. Come on, Marilyn, I’m sure the paper is footing the bill!

Olive Garden has an attractive bar area to the right of the entryway. The restaurant has a full liquor license and a wine list…

Do I detect subtle disapproval in Marilyn’s tone there? And are there half liquor licenses? So many questions. I don’t mean to give her a hard time. The review has gone viral online. It even spawned an article by her son, a Wall Street Journal reporter, called “When Mom Goes Viral.” Awesome.

It’s not you; it’s me

The second OG story happened right here in Pittsburgh, and I can’t believe it wasn’t a bigger deal. Well, not really. It happened in Orlando, but it involved people from Pittsburgh.

And I want to say, just for the record, that I have never broken up with a girl at a fancy restaurant in hopes that she wouldn’t “make a scene” in a fancy place. Just want to get that out there. But I’ve heard it happens.

Just as I’m not sure what to think about Olive Garden, I’m also not sure what to think of this Arena Football League. But it’s a thing. I’ve never been to a game, but I imagine that it would be some kind of cross between indoor soccer and a Madden video game. It’s played indoors on a 50-yard field. There are sideline boards like in hockey. Everyone but the kicker and quarterback plays both offense and defense. There are nets to ricochet kicks back onto the field as live balls. Multiple backs and receivers can run around before the snap just like *gulp* Canadian football. And the players… well, let’s just say that these are the guys who couldn’t make it in the NFL or *gulp* Canadian football. If there was a single-A level of football, this would be it. But the folks in the Arena League are always quick to remind you, “Super Bowl champion quarterback Kurt Warner played here!” Of course, he had to bag groceries on the side to make ends meet.

Well, it seems that Pittsburgh has a team. You don’t hear much about them. They’re called the Power, or, in Pittsburghese, Pahr. They were in Orlando to play the Predators for the opening week of the team’s second-ever season. Despite being a rather low-budget league, the team owner, Matt Shaner, took the entire roster to the Olive Garden for a pre-game meal. Class move. But shouldn’t this have raised some concern? I used to play football. An Olive Garden pre-game meal would have been deposited on the field before the end of the first quarter.

Somewhere during the meal, the owner stood up to address the team. In stirring Vince Lombardi fashion, he fired the entire roster right there over the bread sticks and never-ending salad. I’m sure this provided a quandary for the players. Do you stay and awkwardly finish your free meal? Of course not, you just got fired. Get out of there. Yeah, but the bread sticks…

“Mid-statement, all the players got up and left,” former Power center Beau Elliott told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Every player got up and left while he was still talking. There were 15 to 20 angry, large individuals.”

It was a preemptive strike by the Power as the player’s union considers calling for a work stoppage. The union wants a 300% increase in the players $400 game checks. The owners countered with a 25% increase.

Here’s the deal, though. The Power took the field with replacement players and won the game. Of course, Orlando had done the same thing. A few players left the union and crossed the picket line, but mostly they were replacements. Both teams wore white uniforms with few names on the back.

Think about that. Replacements for Arena League players. Some of them arrived just before kickoff. A quarterback switched teams before the game after getting “drafted” during a pregame selection. Announcers on the NFL Network broadcast didn’t even have rosters to identify the players. We’ve got to be talking about weekend flag football guys, right? I keep picturing Keanu Reeves as Shane Falco at quarterback. Or was I the only one who saw that movie?

This does not bode well for the Arena Football League. They should probably just change the rules and turn it completely into Rollerball… or Roller Derby… or the Hunger Games. Have I told you that I like those books?

More salad?

About carpetbagger

Tom and Jean are just a couple of Chicago transplants in Lawrenceville, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Posted on March 16, 2012, in Misc, Pittsburgh, Sports and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I would have wanted to stay for the meal, but it sounds like I would have been the only one. Maybe I could have grabbed a to-go bag.

    “Excuse me sir, is that a breadstick in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

  2. I cannot top Bluz’s comment ’cause he has me laughing too much! I will say that the OG has been such a disappointment. The salad seems so much smaller and I have to hunt for the olives. Disappointing.

  3. As awful as that movie was, yes, I’ve seen The Replacements. Score one for Cassie!

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