Pasta Perfection

Day Forty-Seven: Cristina

Comments

Demeanor -- Sauvignon Blanc-like: zesty, herbal
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- ((gazing upon her unfinished plate of pasta)) "I...I'm not sure what happened here. I'm sorry."
Most bizarre final project for school -- highly sexually-charged advertisement for Chipotle, which unfortunately has been taken down from the internet. I assume this was due to some sort of dual copyright claim/violation of youtube's anti-pornography policies
Snapshot --

((seeing the basket of breadsticks)) "Are these for me?!"

--

Cristina found my blog through a post I made nearly a month ago on Reddit that was immediately downvoted into invisibility by the hardcore faction of anti-Olive Garden extremists who push a clear and consistent pro-Macaroni Grill agenda. It's blatant censorship like this that disrupts truly free speech and will eventually lead the community to Voat! One day! Soon! Right, guys??

Man, Cristina, if you're reading this, I'm sorry. What a horrible opening paragraph. Let's start over. When she's not on Reddit, which I swear I will never mention again on this blog, she tutors kids on subjects of all sorts and plays the bass guitar! She has a great sense of humor, and I appreciate her commitment to a chain restaurant - not just on an intellectual level.

2 more dates to go.

~MANAGER SPOTLIGHT~

Kathleen is a manager at the Santa Ana Westfield Mainplace mall Olive Garden, where I spent almost every weekday night for the past seven weeks. Since tonight was my last night at this OG, she sent me off in style with a brand-new pasta t-shirt (in awesomely creative packaging). She's a great person and every employee I asked had nothing but positive things to say about her! Thanks for putting up with me eating all your pasta, Kathleen!!

Today's pasta was
Ravi Ollie Kickflip 360

Day Forty-Six: Audrey

Comments

Demeanor -- Merlot-like: velvety, intense
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "You're putting me on the spot!! Just kidding. I knew you were going to ask that. I tried to think of, like, a funny quip, but I've got nothing. I really like it."
Banter skills on three hours of sleep -- Surprisingly on-point
Snapshot --

"Yeah, I read your entire blog. I'm not afraid to say that. If someone thinks that's stalker-ish or whatever, they're not the type of person who I'd want to be with, anyway."

--

When I found out that Audrey was a professional photographer, I was really excited that she could maybe teach me how to use my camera. She was able to tell what an aperture was, how long to expose things, and what the optimal shutter speed for a slow-moving plate of pasta would be. Unfortunately, neither of us could figure out how to change any of those settings on the camera itself, so it all ended up being a purely academic exercise.

Audrey also has a genuine interest in people, which is always pleasant to find. And it's hard not to like someone who appreciates Taylor Swift, even though she's not quite on my level of fandom. But then, who is?!

3 more dates to go.

Normally I wouldn't allow this sort of tomfoolery, but I was moved by her explanation: "I really feel more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, y'know?"

Deep, man. Also, she said that I could post this one for the official record, so no harm done.

Today's pasta was
Mount Rushmore

Day Forty-Five: Alycia

Comments

Demeanor -- Cabernet-like: popular, bold
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Honestly, it's like my second family. I love it here. I dream about this job."
Most unexpected possession -- A homemade positive-energy voodoo doll
Snapshot --

"So," I ask, "were the other employees jealous when you told them you were going to go out with me?"

"They said not to do it. They think you're a serial killer."

I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't that. "Why?!"

"You're here every day, you bring a new woman every time, and they never come back. Where do they go?!"

--

I've never met anyone who exemplifies the 90's-era slogan of Olive Garden ("When you're here, you're family") quite like Alycia. Extraordinarily friendly, upbeat, and charming, she's a natural-born hostess who improved every one of the nights I saw her. I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to be one of my final Olive Garden dates.

Most of my dates last about an hour, sometimes an hour and a half if refills are ordered. Dinner with Alycia was two and a half hours long - she's so easy to talk to that one completely loses track of time. I'm sure that she'll go on to have a very happy and fulfilling life!

4 more dates to go.

(she's doing "air bass")

Bonus - Staff Spotlight!

I also had to ask for a selfie with a few other treasured members of the Santa Ana mall Olive Garden's staff - our server, Lindsey, and our host, Bryan. They, along with Alycia, all deserve recognition for their contributions to Olive Garden's reputation. Whatever these folks are paid, it's not enough!

Today's pasta was
How Do I Turn That Off?

Day Forty-Four (1): Missy

Comments

Demeanor -- Muscat-like: Acerbic, astringent
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Um...indifferent? Do you ask everyone that?"
Tough crowd -- laughed way harder at the fact that I had a second Olive Garden date lined up immediately after hers than she did at any of my jokes
Snapshot --

"Totoro is overrated. I really prefer Princess Mononoke"
-Missy, sealing herself away in my Friendzone™ forever

--

Missy does "pretty much everything" in her employ at a local movie theater, even making drinks! I don't know what kind of movie theater serves cocktails, but it sounds like a pretty chill place. I'd recommend it, if I had thought to ask her the name.

Sassy and no-nonsense, Missy does not suffer fools gladly and has no reservations about pointing out hypocrisy where she sees it. This made dining with her a uniquely rewarding experience!

5 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Volume One

Day Forty-Four (2): Meagan

Comments

Demeanor -- Zinfandel-like: dry, light-bodied
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I've only been here once before, and it was...not the best experience. It felt like they just put sauce on top of pasta. It wasn't really a cohesive meal."
Could she even begin to explain how stressful nursing school is? -- No
Snapshot --

I ask Meagan if she's interested in having kids, because I find that the best time to have that particular conversation with a loved one is within 3 minutes of meeting them.

"Ugh...um...don't put this in the blog, but...children are like small, psychotic, drunk adults."

"Wow. I'd really like to put that in the blog."

"Okay. Man. All my friends are going to know it's me who said that."

--

Meagan is a nursing student worried that she may already be becoming jaded about the profession, despite having not yet worked a full day as an RN (Real Nurse) or NP (Nurse-Plus). That sounds like a lot to have on one's plate, so I'm particularly grateful for her coming all the way to my OG to fill a less metaphysical plate.

5 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Volume Two

Day Forty-Three: Shanina

Comments

Demeanor -- Riesling-like: Honey-sweet
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Growing up in a small town, this was the fanciest place we could go. It's way better than Applebee's. I always felt like they just microwaved their food."
Favorite subreddits -- /r/askwomen and /r/pcmasterrace ("despite the ayyy lmao")
Snapshot --

Back in middle school, Shanina was a Pretty Big Deal in free-to-play MMOs like Maplestory and, especially, Mabinogi.

"I spent a lot of my mom's money on that game, buying all the coolest gear. I was the most popular player on the server. Then I got banned."

I can tell this is a painful memory for her, so I don't ask her to relive the trauma.

--

With an infectious laugh and refreshingly positive outlook, Shanina was a delightful dining companion. She's studying to be a civil engineer. If you were wondering: yes, she has played Sim City. No, you are not the first person to ask.

6 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
The PonyGirl Special

Day Forty-Two: Christine

Comments

Demeanor -- Sage-like: Wise, earthy
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "It's..." ((searches for the right word)) "...okay."
Reaction to my puns -- A polite, tight smile.
Snapshot --

It's way too dark outside to get a quality selfie, and I'm coming to the realization we'll have to take it inside the restaurant. I take a deep breath and ask Christine if she's okay with embarrassing herself.

"You're asking me that now?"

--

Christine is a self-described "semi-practicing" Muslim, and an admissions agent for a study abroad program at a local college. They offer a variety of destinations based off your field of study, which is pretty cool. My major would've gotten me to some place that is not the Culinary Institute of Tuscany , so I changed the subject immediately.

Thanks to Christine for being flexible with her schedule!

7 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
The Value of Pre-Mixing

Day Forty-One: Laura

Comments

Demeanor -- Garlic Powder-like: Strong, independent, don't need no man
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "When I was a little girl, I'd beg my parents to take me to Olive Garden. Eight years later, I was a server! Really living the dream."
Her vote for 'worst part about the Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion' -- People like me
Snapshot --

"Oh my god, I'm so happy to have found someone who likes Olive Garden as much as I do." Laura beams. My mouth is full of food, so I just nod vigorously, sauce dripping from my chin.

She reflects for a bit.

"Maybe more."

--

Laura has some kind of nonprofit organization office job, but used to be server at the Olive Garden, which is, of course, where all my questions were directed. She let me in on countless bits of OG trivia and lore. For example: the company was originally founded in 1930 as "Ollie's Garden" by Oliver Capone as a quasi-legal speakeasy. Customers ordered small bowls of cheap pasta that were 'sauced' with homemade bathtub moonshine! When Prohibition ended, Ollie poured the moonshine into bottles, relabeled them as "Sutter Home Wine", and kept the pasta. People loved it, and Italian-style eating has never been the same.

Oh, right, Laura. She's more than just an OG historian - she also plays a mean Mario Kart. And I mean that literally. She will not hesitate to yell very hurtful things if you dare to use a blue shell.

8 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Delicious!

Day Forty: Yujin

Comments

Demeanor -- Oregano-like: Slightly bitter
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "People are snobby about it, but it's fine."
Helpful/unsolicited tip, brought up apropos of nothing -- "I will say, though, you are much better looking when you look straight ahead."
Snapshot --

"You're an asshole!" Yujin informs me.

I've just finished telling a story in which I, to be fair, come across as kind of an asshole. Before I can respond to this astute observation, the waiter asks us if we need anything. Yujin glares at me and says "Yeah, a better date!"

--

Before I continue, I must legally inform you that this blog post is not legal advice, and Yujin is *not* a lawyer. Granted, this is true of every single one of my dates, but she is the only one that made it a point to stress that I cannot imply her having any sort of lawyer-powers. Bearing that in mind, All Love Garden Dot Com is a fully licensed and bonded law firm, and you should consider all other posts as such.

Wow! What a date. If confidence is a single piece of cavatappi (or a cavatappo, as it would be called in my native Italy), Yujin is an Olive-Garden sized bowl of it. She went to several fancy schools, got several fancy degrees, probably makes more money than I ever will, and is a good three inches taller than me. That said, she dropped a crouton on her lap while eating the salad, which kept her from being all that intimidating. Olive Garden proves yet again that bread is the great equalizer.

9 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Home Stretch

Day Thirty-Nine: Angelica

Comments

Demeanor -- Rosemary-like: astringent and striking
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "It's alright! I always get the same thing - the Five Cheese Ziti al Forno™."
Advice to young women who want to get ahead in the world of competitive Speech -- "Wear a skirt and pantyhose. And bring extra pantyhose for when it inevitably tears. Judges outside of California will expect a skirt, and getting to wear pants is not more important than the speech you worked on all year."
Snapshot --

"My boss was shocked that I knew what a bong looked like. He said at other schools, I could be fired for that."

--

This date was a fun challenge! A debate and speech coach for a private Christian college, Angelica knows a thing or two about dealing with entitled, white men like myself. Though I'm sure she could have easily destroyed me with her mastery of verbal fencing, she spared my life and pride, for which I am eternally grateful.

10 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
Crouching Penne, Hidden Spaghetti

Day Thirty-Eight - Krystle

Comments

Demeanor -- Thyme-like: subtle and reserved
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "My friend and I always came here when we used to follow pop-punk bands around."
With friends like these -- Made her friend drive all the way to the date with her, and then wait outside the Olive Garden for the duration
Snapshot --

"So, you work with kids. What can I do when there's a screaming child at the next table?"

She ponders a moment, and then gives me the exact answer I was hoping not to hear. "Eventually, you just tune it out."

--

Krystle is a preschool teacher who dreams of one day becoming a travel writer. She's a shy-until-you-get-to-know-her type, which is unfortunate because I only really got to the "get-to-know-her" part near the end of dinner! She's very nice, though, and was almost as amused as I was when I found out that the waitress had accidentally (??!) dropped an Andes mint in my Coke Zero. See a picture here - be forewarned it's not very good because I was shaking with excitement at winning this magical prize.

11 more dates to go.

Today's pasta was
A Tasty Snack!

Day Thirty-Seven: Mandy

Comments

Demeanor -- Basil-like: strong, sweet
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Okay, so, about that. My dad hates this restaurant. Absolutely hates it. And he won't tell any of us why. So I've only been here once before."
Mildly threatening tip for my 'really bad' selfies -- "Try to stop breathing when you're taking them"
Snapshot --

((reading her star sign's features off her phone)) "Aquariuses are cheerful. They like to have fun."

I interrupt. "I hate to have fun."

"Well, you're not an Aquarius."

She's got me there.

--

Mandy is an artist who works in the mediums of metal sculpture and photography. She taught me a lot about both of these things, including some genuinely helpful advice to really get the most out of my burgeoning pasta photography business. Granted, I only have one customer, and they haven't paid me or acknowledged my existence yet, but since I've taken over 300 different photos for them by now I think I'm due for one heck of a paycheck!!

Thanks much to Mandy for that and coming all the way from Los Angeles to dine with me!

12 more dates to go.

BONUS: Waiter Spotlight --

Our waiter brings me yet another refill of my soda (diabetes ain't easy).

"Here you are, sir. Diet Coke."

He places it on the table, and before I can say anything, he bursts out, "Just kidding!! It's Coke Zero."

I congratulate him on this classic bit of misdirection, the ol' aspartame-switcheroo.

Today's pasta was
White Balance

Pasta Combination Selector