It was a late on a quiet afternoon eight years ago in February when I first visited the new Olive Garden in Grand Forks.
Little did I dream my weekly review of a restaurant for the Herald would go viral. Little could I dream it would take me to New York City and a visit to the New York Times editorial staff. Little could I imagine I would end up three times with Anderson Cooper and with other national television shows. Nor that I would be meeting up with the late Anthony Bourdain. He published the book “Grand Forks Dining” with a history of American dining in 128 of my reviews.
Little did I dream in the height of this viral experience there would be television trucks from the Twin Cities and Chicago sitting in front of my house on Cottonwood Street.
For years, I had been planning stops at the Olive Garden in Fargo on my way to and from Bismarck. I was delighted when the Olive Garden came to Grand Forks.
So I went there the first time alone late in an afternoon following bridge club at the home of Donna Gillig. I sat at a table near the kitchen door. With the recommendation of my server, I ordered fettucine alfredo.
With strong memories, I went back this week to review the Olive Garden. I made the same order. Fettuccine Alfredo has 1010 calories and is $12.99. The salad was nicely chilled. But since there were only two black olives to be found, I asked for more.
My server in late afternoon was a UND aviation student. And Olive Garden manager Rickey Ward told me later more than half of the 60 full or part time waiters attend UND.
There is a friendly ambience around the restaurant. And the Olive Garden attracts area people who shop in Grand Forks.
This week, I met Glen and Nancy Weber of Starkweather, N.D. They said they often stop at the Olive Garden. They were enjoying cheese ravioli and classic lasagna.
The Olive Garden is nicely designed with three adjoining dining rooms. The fireplace in the center adds warmth and welcome. There is a lunch and dinner following. In between times, the restaurant attracts people throughout the day. Some come in with children after school.
The menu features appetizers, homemade soup, pasta favorites. There are tastes of the Mediterranean including salmon and shrimp along with chicken, beef and seafood entrees.
3160 32nd Ave. S.
Manager: Rickey Ward
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. with 11 p.m. closing Friday, Saturday
Seating capacity: 298
Parking for 150 cars
Report card: Exceptionally friendly, cheery greeting and seating welcomes customers. Menu is uncluttered, brief and easy to read. Quality of food is consistent.