MANILA, Philippines – Olive Garden is finally here! The famous American restaurant chain serving Italian-American specialties has taken to the second floor of the South Entertainment Mall of SM Mall of Asia and will be open to the public from Monday, September 12. Be prepared for the inevitable long queues!
Whether you decide to check it out ASAP or patiently wait for the hype to die down is up to you. Either way, here’s what you can expect on your first visit – menu, prices and photos included!
You can’t miss the distinct Olive Garden storefront, along with a few tables, chairs and a sofa out front. You’ll instantly see the well-lit bar, which also has several bar stools for drinkers and solo diners. Don’t let the warm and welcoming space fool you – there’s waaaay more space in the back!
Stroll down the narrow hallway and a spacious, family-friendly dining room will greet you. There are several group tables, family-style round tables, and even intimate booth seating, accented by Filipino design elements like the native solihiya ceiling lights, backrests and chairs.
The restaurant retains its modern Italian bistro interiors, with warm, neutral tones like greens and browns. There are more group tables in the outdoor area at the back.
The first Filipino store is at 382 square meters and can accommodate up to 300 guests. The service is also friendly and attentive, in keeping with the restaurant’s warm ‘welcome to the family’ philosophy.
We know you’re here for the main event, so let’s jump right into the menu for Olive Garden’s Filipino franchise. First of all, the appetizers!
The Shrimp Fritto Misto (P625) was a good half pound portion of shrimp and bite sized vegetables like zucchini, peppers and eggplant, hand breaded and lightly fried until golden brown and crispy . It is served with marinara and spicy ranch.
There is also the Frita Lasagna (P450-P795): fried parmesan breaded lasagna with alfredo and meat sauce; Ziti Fritta Stuffed (P695); Squids (P595); and Spinach and Artichoke Dip (P550).
Most dishes are available in two sizes (solo and family). Warning: they are really filling and heavy (especially since most dishes do not retain cheese and cream), so it is better to share the dishes, especially for the rather high price range and the portions of family style without tedious presentation.
Each entrée comes with a choice of Endless soup or endless house salad and breadsticks. By the way, the breadsticks aren’t the chewy, garlic-and-herb kind — they’re firm and simple, served with three dips of marinara, alfredo, and five-cheese marinara. The simple salad comes with lettuce, red onions, raddichio, carrots and croutons, tossed in a light vinaigrette. FYI: The staff at Olive Garden will offer you a grating of parmesan at the table on almost any dish.
For unli soups, you have the choice between E Fagioli Pasta (white/red beans, ground beef, tomatoes, tubetti); Zuppa Toscana (Spicy Italian sausage, kale, potatoes); vegetable soup with pasta (tomato, spinach, carrots, zucchini, kidney beans, pasta and tomato broth that might get a little too salty); and the copious Chicken & Gnocchi (heavy cream, roast chicken, fluffy potato dumplings, spinach).
On entries: The Tour of Italy (P1,245) is a thick plate of chicken parmigiana, a small slice of lasagna classico and fettuccine alfredo in the center. You can get each one individually, like the Chicken parmigiana (P675-P875) with a side of spaghetti; Classic Lasagna (P595-P795) with pasta, meat sauce, mozzarella and parmesan. Eat it cool and hot, as cheese and breaded chicken can get a little tough if left cold for a few minutes. Feel free to ask for extra marinara sauce if you want it wetter.
I tried the Prawns Scampis (P695-P875), which is light and a bit spicy – it’s juicy shrimp sautéed in an almost creamy garlic sauce, with crunchy asparagus, tomatoes, bell peppers and angel hair. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for something light!
Another light but tasty option was the Grilled Chicken Margherita (P645-P845): grilled chicken breast topped with a fresh combo of cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil pesto and lemon garlic sauce, with a side of parmesan-crusted zucchini.
Other menu items include Eggplant Parmigiana (P595-P795); Five Cheese Ziti Al Forno (P645-P845); Chicken Scampi (P695; P895); Grilled salmon with herbs (P950); 6oz Sirloin with Fettucine Alfredo (P1.295); Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara (P740-P940); Chicken Carbonara (P725-P925); and Chicken Marsala (P695-P895).
You can also order the Asiago Stuffed Tortelloni Alfredo with Grilled Chicken (P695-P895) or a set of Endless Soup, Salad and Breadsticks (P495), if you’re just going for the appetizer staples.
The “Amazing Alfredos” menu features Olive Garden’s signature alfredo, made with parmesan cheese, cream, garlic and butter (it has a slight tinge of sweetness BTW). There is the Fettuccine Alfredo (P645-845); Seafood Alfredo (P695-P995); Shrimp Alfredo (P695-P995); and Chicken Alfredo (P725-P925).
Olive Garden also offers a Create your own pasta dinner size option from P745. Choose a pasta (spaghetti, fettuccini, angel hair or ziti); choose a sauce (marinara, five-cheese marinara, creamy mushroom or meat sauce); and toppings for an additional fee (crispy chicken fritta, grilled chicken, or sautéed shrimp). Grilled chicken strips might get a little hard to cut.
Desserts like Strawberry or Mango Cheesecake (P475); Zeppoli Italian donut (P395); Tiramisu (P475); and Chocolate Brownie Lasagna (P475) are also available for a sweet crowning glory.
Beautiful fancy cocktails are also made on site at the bar, such as the Hibiscus-Oh! (P250) with rum and other alcoholic beverages like Italian Daisy (P275); Olive Gin on the Rocks (P250); Italian Rum Punch (P250), Strawberry or Peach Bellini (P395); Amaretto Sour (P250) and more. A wide variety of red and white wines, liqueurs, beers and sangrias are also available.
There are also non-alcoholic soft drinks such as Violet-White (P220) with guyabano and butterfly pea tea; peach butterfly pea (P150); Strawberry Passionfruit Limonata (P195); Hibiscus butterfly pea herbal tea (P195), and more. For endless top-ups, there’s the Raspberry Lemonade, Classic Iced Tea/Raspberry Peach, onen/a Mango Strawberry Iced Tea at P150 each.
Olive Garden at SM MOA will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis.
Olive Garden was introduced to the Philippines by The Bistro Group, which also recently introduced Los Angeles donut chain Randy’s Donuts in May. The local restaurant group is also bringing the famous Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão to the country in 2023.
The Bistro Group is behind other franchises like Denny’s, Texas Roadhouse, Hard Rock Café, Buffalo Wild Wings, Modern Shanghai, Fish & Co., Italiannis and TGIFridays.
Olive Garden is one of America’s largest restaurant chains that serves its own American take on Italian classics. It has more than 880 restaurants worldwide, headquartered in Florida. – Rappler.com