There are two Olive Gardens in Manhattan and I went to the one in 2 Times Square (47th Street to Seventh Avenue) on a Wednesday afternoon, morning in the Theater District, just to see the lunch crowd. The restaurant has three levels and it was packed with a high tourist quotient. I got the last seat at the top floor bar, and when I left, exactly 30 minutes later, people were still lining up for tables.
At the bar, each customer was a woman, some alone, others in pairs. The price of the entrees includes a salad or a soup, so $ 13.25 bought a lot of food. The spaghetti was bland and overcooked, although the marinara sauce was brilliantly flavored. The meatballs were a travesty, with the consistency of a gum and a distinct taste of stale cooking oil. The cooler they got, the worse they were; the salty aftertaste was downright acrid, and the load had an opaque, chalky quality that was as unpleasant as it was unidentifiable.
The experience dampened my enthusiasm for making the homemade version that night, although a Milky Way bar (270 calories, 11 grams of fat, 95 milligrams of sodium) proves me right and, d ‘after my count, keeps me under where I would have been if I had finished my meal.
I persevered, though my hopes of making meatballs with any taste were tempered by the ingredient list, which calls for ground turkey and ground sirloin, at 85 percent lean. You also need two pieces of bread soaked in milk, but after this lunch something deep in my throat rebelled. A friend suggested chicken broth as a substitute, and God loves it, it was a stroke of genius. The meatballs were light with a fresh, clean finish. But here’s the problem: The recipe’s nutritional number (510 calories, 12.5 grams of fat, 740 milligrams of sodium) was based on six one-pound servings of whole wheat pasta and one-and-a-half pound of meat. Maybe this is enough if you are serving children ?? or swimwear models ?? but for hungry adults it can only serve four.
Also, the recipe didn’t take 30 minutes as claimed. I let it cook almost twice as long, because I personally don’t want to eat a meatball that is half poultry and with a pink center.