In an effort to boost sales, Olive Garden has recently made some changes to its menu, and it includes more than a dozen new items, meal customization, smaller plates, and foods that are more on the lighter side.
One new section on their menu is dubbed “Cucina Mia” and it lets guests customize their meal between five sauces and six types of pasta for $9.99. Not a bad deal, especially since they even include a gluten-free option. Sauce choices consist of Spicy Diavolo, Sun-dried Tomato, Primavera, Garlic Asiago, and Tomato Pomodoro. For a couple of dollars more, you can throw in Sausage, Regular, or Chicken Meatballs.
Another new section on their menu is called Pronto Lunch, which features sandwiches, flatbreads, small plates, and of course, pasta, all starting at $6.99. There's also the standard soup, salad, and breadsticks available.
On April 18 at 11am, a friend and I (with a little one in tow) stopped over at the Olive Garden Secaucus location to give the new menu a try. I've been to Olive Garden before, but considering how the quality seemed to have dwindled, I haven't been back in years. However, I kept an open mind considering the new menu changes.
We started with the Salad and breadsticks, as well as the Toscana and Minestrone Soups. The former was still great (always was one of my favorite aspects of the menu), and we got the 5 Cheese Marinara Dipping Sauce ($3.49). There wasn't a lot of it, but what was there was delicious, and even appeased the appetite of a choosy 4-year-old. Each of the soups had wonderful flavor, perfectly cooked pasta, and a good amount of ingredients without it being overwhelming.
Next up, we ordered the Bruschetta ($7.29), Hummus (2.99), and Risotto Bites ($2.99). The Bruschetta was fresh and delicious as was the bread, and even though it was lacking a bit of garlic, the freshness more than made up for it, and even the little one kept asking for more. As far as the Hummus, I was a bit disappointed. I'm a huge fan of hummus, and if it's on a menu, chances are I'll get it. While the consistency was good as was the bread that came with it, it was overloaded with garlic. I love garlic as much as the next girl, but a little less would have been much better. I was almost afraid to talk to anyone after. The Risotto Bites, however, were fantastic. A light crunch on the outside, and a nice creamy rich flavor on the inside. Definitely a must order.
All of the aforementioned food, in addition to a kids order of macaroni and cheese with a meatball and fries, as well as an iced tea and chocolate milk, came out to $42.92 including tax. Not bad considering there were plenty of leftovers and everyone left full and happy.
As we all know, service can make or break a meal, and our waiter was Ian G. He was one of the most pleasant and patient waiters I've ever had, especially considering the little one couldn't decide between pasta with tomato sauce and macaroni and cheese (and really, who can blame him?). Not once did Ian have any sense of unpleasantness or aggravation on his face, and he treated every customer in our area as if they were friends he's known for years.
So, would I go back even though I wasn't a fan of the Olive Garden food for years? Yes, I do believe my opinion has changed. Considering their menu changes, food quality changes, pleasant staff, good prices, and customization options, it's worth a visit.
500 New Jersey 3
Secaucus, NJ 07094
Disclaimer: The food reviewed in this article was generously provided by Olive Garden. However, the opinions are my own and are fair and accurate based on my own experiences.Reprint of the photographs included in this review is not permitted without my express and written consent.