Fast Food & Fine Wine #7: Olive Garden Breadstick Sandwiches With Damilano Barolo

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As soon as Olive Garden announced their decision to use their very famous breadsticks as the base for sandwiches, we knew we had to try them. Like them or hate them, Olive Garden has become the ambassador for Italian dining in America, but the ambassador doesn’t always hold the torch – meaning after you introduce people to Italian Cuisine, you can’t be surprised if they begin to move up the food chain, visiting Carabas, Macaroni Grill, Bucca De Beppo and finally the holy grail, Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Basically, it seem that sales have been slow, and The Olive Garden needed to do something to shake things up. Enter Olive Garden Breadstick Sandwiches. And we have to admit the promotion has worked – us covering the sandwiches is a case in point.

When deciding what to pair with these epic sandwiches we wanted to go with a wine that also serves as an ambassador for it’s region. We knew the bottle had to be Italian, and what better wine than a Barolo, the wine of Kings and Queens. A Barolo would go beautifully with both the meatball as well as the chicken parm sandwiches, it’s acidity and cherry notes rising above the heft of the food. And there was no better wine for this task than Damilano Barolo.

When we opened the wine we were immediately greeted with a perfume of roses. The wine was a beautiful light red in the glass and had the delicious flavors of bright cherry, leather and spice that it’s so well known for. It was delicious.

Then we sunk our teeth into the sandwiches. For all the hype we were surprised at how underwhelming they were. The flavors were flat and flabby. Where were the salty and cheesy flavors of the chicken parm, or the rich meatiness of the meatballs? They were conspicuously missing. What remained was a blandness that could only be fixed by the wine.

We wouldn’t return to the sandwiches, a PR stunt that is great for hype yet seriously lacking in flavor, but the wine is one to drink again and again.