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Lunch guys: ‘Rollatini’ translates to ‘wimpy lasagna’

POSTED: August 13, 2008 5:01 a.m.

For those Lunch Guys readers who don’t speak Italian, let us translate the name of Olive Garden’s newest dish, the Lasagna Rollatini. In English, that means teeny roll of lasagna.

For less than $10, we ordered a plate of it with sausage to go, and it came with the usual choice of soup or salad and breadsticks. So we came away full, but were we happy, too?

Chris: Tom, as much as Olive Garden tries to market itself as an authentic taste of the real Italy right here in suburbia, it often seems like the kitchen is just an upscale Taco Bell.

It’s the same seven ingredients shuffled over and over again in endless permutations of pasta and meat, pasta and meat, pasta and meat. At its heart, that’s what this Lasagna Rollatini is — a generic-yet-pretty pasta casing around the usual blend of Italian cheeses, topped with another alfredo sauce.

Each of those parts on its own tasted as bland as a defrosted Swanson dinner. A real pop came from the rich sausage that was just heaped on top of the pasta rolls rather than baked inside them to better blend the flavors.

And yet this meal really won me over on the sausage and the sheer abundance. You know I’m a big eater, Tom (only that Nathan’s hot-dog-eating champ has a better appetite), and yet I couldn’t come close to cleaning my plate.

I did all I could and yet I left behind about four of those savory sausage disks, a third of my potato soup and an entire breadstick. Even more so than I do at Taco Bell, I was screaming, "I’m full!"

Tom: Full, yes, but satisfied? Not even close! Chris, this dish sounds like a winner — I pictured bite-sized pieces of lasagna — but what I got wasn’t even close.

First off, small squares of pasta filled with a mushy cheese paste isn’t lasagna, it’s ravioli. But this isn’t even good ravioli because the pasta used isn’t of the thin, delicate and tasty variety — it’s just pieces of a thick and doughy lasagna noodle!

To make matters worse, there is barely any of the tasteless but catchy-sounding tomato alfredo sauce covering the dish.

Chris, in a sea of mostly bland items on the Olive Garden menu, this one is the blandest. I couldn’t tell where the cheese started and the pasta ended.

Granted, there was a lot of it and the sausage version was acceptably fair, but the chicken version is just plain weak. Strips of dry chicken do nothing for an Italian dish except add protein. I might as well sprinkle some turkey jerky on top.

I suppose if you are starving, with the soup or salad, breadsticks and the entrée you’ll never go hungry. Wanting, yes, but not hungry.

Chris: I know I pick on Quiznos a lot for charging $10 for one sandwich, but this is why. My to-go bag from Olive Garden was the size of a grocery sack and stuffed with a meal and a half worth of Italian food — for the same price.

In fact, one more trip to Olive Garden, and I can skip my grocery shopping.

Tom: At least at the grocery you could pick up some authentic Italian-tasting goods like some garlic and basil and a jar of Prego.

This item is supposedly a limited time offer. My advice is to wait until it passes.

Tom James and Chris Tauber are Orlando, Fla.-based writers.



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