I ate a bit of pasta in my recent Toronto trip. Mostly good pasta with one bad pasta night. Paid about $100 for 5 meals, including tax and tip.
Earlier this week, Olive Garden was offering a chance at 7 weeks of pasta for $100. The restaurant chain handed out 1,000 "never ending pasta passes" to use between September 22 and November 9.
Since the restaurant offers a $9.99 never ending pasta day pass (available during the same time period), one media outlet's reasoning was that you would have to eat there at least 11 times to get a bargain. The 7-week pass includes Coca-Cola soft drinks, so the number would be smaller than 11. But 11 trips in 7 weeks seems pretty mild.
After all, if you enjoy Olive Garden pasta, you could be there 49 times for dinner. Add unlimited breadsticks, salad, soup, and the Coca-Cola brand drinks, and you would do quite well.
Feel like you need to save even more money? Skip lunch for 7 weeks. Eat a hearty breakfast, snack on fruit and lean protein at lunch, and make up for a lack of carbohydrates at dinner.
49 dinners for $100 (plus tips) is a bargain. And you do get vegetables. Add more fruit for dessert when you get home, and you could do a lot worse.
If you took advantage of the deal 20 times in 7 weeks (about 3x/week), you would be paying $5 per meal. 40 times would be $2.50 per meal.
For $2.50, you could put together a really nice spaghetti dinner with a salad. Soup might fit in the budget, but maybe not breadsticks. Still, Olive Garden gives you multiple choices.
Sometimes in this role, being a food snob is pretty easy to pull off. The pasta day pass might not be worth $9.99 to you, but a decent plate of pasta with unlimited breadsticks, salad, and soup for that kind of money is a good deal.
As much as we love cooking, sometimes you want someone else to do the work.
Duplicating the feat at home for that low a margin would be rather difficult. White flour pasta is pretty cheap in the store and you could make your own sauce, or find a cheap jarred sauce. But 49 dinners of breadsticks, salad, and soup for $100 would still be a great bargain.
The food is supposed to be OK. I don't live close to an Olive Garden, haven't been to one in years, and couldn't remember what I ordered or whether I enjoyed the meal.
If I had a chance to buy a pass, I would have done so. I contemplated on Twitter about using the pass to allow homeless people to get a good meal. I also would have eaten a few times myself.
Americans worry more about the cost of food, yet among First World countries, they pay the least for their food. They also entail, according to food snobs, the path of least resistance when it comes to food.
The "never ending pasta pass" is a reminder for us to think about the true cost of food. Olive Garden is buying a lot of publicity for these $100 passes. Honestly, when was the last time you thought about an Olive Garden?
Good food at good prices: this is what most people strive for. Sometimes at a cost to money, sometimes as a cost to food. Save money where you can, but splurge on what is important.
If I lived near an Olive Garden, and bought a pass for $100, I would go a lot just to break up the routine. I cook a lot and get great satisfaction. Taking 7 weeks to have someone cook for me would be a nice change of pace. I could try different pastas and soups. I could find out which soups taste good with the breadsticks. I could be tempted by new sauces.
I wouldn't get tired of 7 weeks of pasta, but others might. Or for the price, people might not care as long as they are eating food.
7 weeks isn't forever. If you are stuck in a rut, try something different for 7 weeks. Sure it may cost more than $100, but what you'll learn about yourself could be priceless. Buono appetito!!
photo credit: Olive Garden