Four months after opening its first branch in the Philippines—the one overlooking the popular bayside Ferris wheel at SM Mall of Asia—the enduring OG of American-Italian dining, Olive Garden, has opened a second outlet for Manila’s diners, many of whom may have only heard of the brand from US comedy shows.
Here is American rapper Post Malone showing Jimmy Fallon how best to eat the free bread sticks that his favorite restaurant is famous for.
Here is an SNL skit featuring a faux Olive Garden TVC shoot where Scarlett Johansson makes a guest appearance.
And then there’s that “Will & Grace” episode from Season 2 entitled I Never Promised You An Olive Garden, shown first way back in the 1990s, where the lead besties are forced to dine in their straight friends’ favorite restaurant—which is, you guessed it, Olive Garden. As expected, riot ensues.
In these TV outings, the restaurant may not come off as the coolest thing that ever happened to American dining, but they sure reiterate the established fact that Americans follow the brand and love its food. After all, “Olive Garden is the largest American-Italian restaurant chain in the United States,” claims its press release, “where it operates more than 900 restaurants and employs over 96,000 people.”
And you have to be as big a name as Olive Garden to have a sense of humor about a few jokes thrown at your expense.
But back to its second Manila branch—it very conveniently dislodged TGI Fridays, a sister brand at the Bistro Group, from it’s over two-decades-old location at the third floor of Glorietta 3, which is no laughing matter. (Although your favorite chimichangas are just one elevator ride down.)
Hopes are up for this second outlet which opened to the public Monday, January 9. It’s a 113-seater restaurant whose first few days will be manned by an Olive Garden team of trainors from the US along with the outlet’s Filipino staff. Like most Bistro Group restaurants, the interiors of this branch is positively nifty, the design sending hints of that Italian villa aspirational vibe along with an easy, ‘everybody’s welcome’ warmth. But don’t expect “White Lotus” luxury.
Famous for its ‘never-ending’ garden-fresh salads and home-style soups (you won’t regret having their minestrone early in the day), the Manila branches also offer other OG mainstays: the Shrimp Scampi, Chicken Alfredo, Lasagna, Chicken Parmigiana, and our favored starter, the Shrimp Frito Misto—seasoned crunchy-soft shrimps meant to be popped into one’s mouth one after another. Plus don’t forget the freshly baked, soft garlic breadsticks—always better with a stroke of butter, just ask Post Malone.
“We are very pleased about the enthusiastic welcome that Filipinos accorded Olive Garden,” said Greg Balogh of Darden Restaurants which runs Olive Gardens around the world, “and we look forward to expanding the brand in more locations soon.” After the Glorietta branch, the Bistro Group is expecting to open another outlet in the country this year.