I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Lima, Ohio.
Greetings from Lima, Ohio
N 40° 43.592’ W 084° 04.433’ Elev. 848 ft.
I’ve mentioned before that I think the lowly Lima bean is the most underrated and oft-ignored bean there is. It’s nice, then, that the good people of Ohio had the decency to name a city after it.
As Chrissie Hynde might sing: “Eh. Oh. Way to go, Ohio.” NOT!
(According to the InterTubes, the origin of Lima’s moniker is much more romantic. The town was actually named after Lima, Peru, the source of the “quinine bark” used for the treatment of “swamp fever” aka malaria in pioneer days. Malaria was prevalent in Lima, Ohio at the time.)
A few days before I arrived here I’d seen an ad on the TeeBee for a special Olive Garden was running. In the ad they showed these hunger-inducing cheese raviolis.
At the time I didn’t pay all that much attention to it. But evidently the ad worked on my subconscious or, rather, my submerged consciousness, and I ended up at the OG.
The special they’re running, until about December, is called “Dinner today & Dinner tomorrow” ($12.95; prices may vary in NYC, Alaska and Canada). It consists of two entrees — there are five to choose from — one that you eat in the restaurant and another to take home.
The entree you eat in the restaurant is served with unlimited soup or salad and their buttery, slightly salty breadsticks. The one you take home is only an entree, but if you’re nice they’ll throw a couple of breadsticks at you, figuratively speaking.
Although the OG has really great fresh, crisp salad, I chose a new soup they were offering: Chicken & Potato Florentine. This stuff is great! Nice chunks of perfectly cooked potato in a creamy zuppa that’s the perfect consistency. But I couldn’t really detect any chunks of chicken. I guess they were in there. Perhaps they were hidden by the Florentine; Florentine just means it’s made with spinach. But the soup had something else in it that tasted kind of like sausage or something. Regardless, it was so good that I ate two bowls of it. This soup is a real keeper.
For the in-house entree I ordered the as-seen-on-TV Mezzaluna Ravioli with Five Cheese Marinara. The fairly generous portion of half-moon shaped raviolis were generously stuffed with cheese that tasted slightly smoky, as in smoked-cheese smoky. I thought the sauce was a little misnamed as it’s actually more of a tomato-cream sauce.
I kept thinking the dish would be really good with the addition of thin slices of portobello mushroom, but it was fantastic nonetheless — both hot and cold. Truly another keeper.
I ordered the Lasagna Rollatini with Meat Sauce for the to-go portion of the meal. Rollatini is usually made with eggplant, but this was just cheese lasagna covered in meat sauce, with a generous dollop of really creamy ricotta cheese on top. It’s good, and Olive Garden makes a really decent meat sauce, but it wasn’t nearly as heavenly as the Half-moon Cheese Pillows.
I’ve been to Olive Gardens all over the place over the years, and they are consistently good from location to location. But I’ve learned one thing about them: Always order the specials. The reason is that this is how OG tests new menu items and, more often than not, they’re usually really, really good and fairly cheap.
One of my favorites, which they introduced a few years ago and ended up keeping as a regular menu item, is the Braised Beef & Tortelloni, “tender sliced short ribs and portobello mushrooms tossed with asiago-filled tortelloni in a basil-marsala sauce” ($14.95). It is unbelievably good.
This “Dinner today & Dinner tomorrow” special is a real value at essentially $6.50 a meal. Truly a sweet deal. So sweet, in fact, that it even comes with an after-dinner (Andy’s) chocolate mint.
And so we roll.
Olive Garden, nationwide
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.