There are some days, those days in the dogged heat of summer, when you wake up in the morning and know that all you want is something light and healthy to eat for lunch. Something that matches the greenery all around you, but that you can eat, with a light oil and vinegar dressing and a crusty multigrain piece of bread.
And there are other days in the fall and winter, when the chill in the air overtakes your better judgement and all you want is heavy, creamy foods full of those delicious fats and carbohydrates that help you put on some extra pounds in preparation for the long winter ahead. As October draws to a close, it is easy to guess which mood I found myself in this morning as I sat at my desk, fantasizing about the lunch I was going to have. I wanted alfredo sauce and pasta, and salad and soup and breadsticks....
Perhaps you've guessed where this is going. Or if you are just too dignified to admit that you can guess, I'll go ahead and tell you: the Olive Garden, of course! I timidly suggested the, ahem, unconventional lunching destination to Karina around 1:15 and to my pleasant surprise, she shared my craving. We checked their website (it does exist) and headed out to experience their lunch special: unlimited salad and soup and breadsticks for 5.95!
Of course when I arrived, I couldn't pass up the fettucini alfredo, which comes with its own supply of soup and breadsticks. Karina stuck to her salad loving guns. The decadence doesn't end there. We ordered a glass of Clos du Bois merlot apiece and sat back to await the arrival of our bottomless food groups , noting the nipple lamps above our heads, the excellent lighting and we must admit, enticingly cozy atmosphere. Have Olive Gardens always been so nice inside? We wondered aloud whether Center City Philadelphia somehow warranted an extra special edition of this cheesy (no pun intended) Italian food chain, to feed its hungry officiants in this, the fattest city in America.
But before we could answer the puzzle the food had arrived! We savored every greasy, a-nutritious morsel, which was salted and buttered and oiled to perfection. The breadsticks, so soft and not dissimilar to hot dog buns showed up in sets of four, which we used to soak up the alfredo and minestrone remnants in each of the six or seven plates at our table. I'll admit, the quantity of food was not something at which you should turn up your nose. It was absolutely, guiltlessly delicious. Neither one ever once regretted our impulsive choice in destination.
Don't worry business lunch patrons, we have not wholly surrendered our heretofore classy lunchtime entourage to the warm, parmesan embrace of American chain restaurant experiences. But we all have to admit, sooner or later, it feels good to give in sometimes to those sinful homestyle portions. Even now, nearly dinnertime, our luxurious lunch in "Italy" seems like a figment of my foodled imagination.