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The Constant Olive Gardener: One Man’s Never-Ending Pasta Odyssey

When you buy the domain name “AllOfGarden.com,” you have to live up to it.

The Constant Olive Gardener: One Man’s Never-Ending Pasta Odyssey
[Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart]

When Olive Garden announced in August that it would be selling Never-Ending Pasta Passes that entitled the owner, for a mere $100, to eat as much of the Italian chain’s food during the “Never-Ending Pasta” special as they wanted, the Internet lit up. Only a thousand passes were made available. They went quickly–websites crashed; a black market for the passes sprang up on eBay; people fantasized about how much pasta they could eat; and one man, who goes only by “Vino,” saw it as a challenge.

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Pizza Hut Special, 2/5 rating

After receiving the Never-Ending Pasta Pass, Vino began contemplating how to maximize his resources. “The idea came to me in stages,” he tells us. “First was making sure I got $100 worth of meals–then [it was] eating every dinner there–then the pun “All Of Garden” came to me, and I had no choice but to go full-bore.”

“Full-bore,” in Vino’s case, means that he’s eating every single meal–lunch and dinner–at his local Olive Garden for the seven-week duration of his pass, and documenting each bowl of never-ending pasta he enjoys on the AllOfGarden.com blog. In addition to sharing his interactions with the wait staff and his dining companions, Vino names and offers the combinations for each bowl of pasta he eats. (His most recent lunch was “Splash Damage,” which he describes as “Italian Sausage nestled within a ball the size of a chihuahua’s head of Penne, smeared with Five Cheese Marinara.”)

Art Nouveau, 5/5 rating

At 9 days in, Vino seems downright thrilled by the process–and he’s not particularly worried about his health, despite his commitment to eating pasta for nearly 100 meals in a row. And he’s heard the Super-Size Me comparisons from his friends. “People (mention) that movie to me a lot,” he says. “But I think there are some very key differences. First of all, I’m counting my calories. I’m generally eating more of the ‘healthier’ pastas and salads, and less of the heavier dishes. But I always eat enough of everything to give it a fair review.”

And despite some early friction with a manager who expressed concern about allowing Vino to use his pass on a to-go order (“if we let you just take as much as you want, you could eat until you died”), he says that the staff at his local joint has been nothing but friendly. “They all seem to love me,” he says. “Granted, they are Olive Garden employees, so they’re paid to seem to love people. They call me by name as I walk in the door. It’s very nice!”

Art Brut, 1/5 Rating

There are no big revelations from Vino from his experience–at least not yet–and despite a bout with pasta-inspired queasiness, he’s still feeling good about his endeavor. When asked about what he’s learned, the answer is practical–and pasta-related. “Italian sausage always looks gross, but generally tastes pretty good with a tomato sauce and a sturdy pasta,” he says. “Shrimp, which I thought would be nauseating on everything, actually is pretty decent on everything.” Wise words, Vino. Wise words.

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About the author

Dan Solomon lives in Austin with his wife and his dog. He's written about music for MTV and Spin, sports for Sports Illustrated, and pop culture for Vulture and the AV Club

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