Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Olive GardenRestaurant Insider
April 30, 2023
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE with Olive Garden Ala Moana’s culinary manager ROSEMARY VALLENTE
Since opening in Hawaii in 2020, Olive Garden has been a popular place for local families and visitors to gather for good food in a comfortable setting. With two locations here on Oahu, there are some new and exciting things happening for this restaurant.
Rosemary Vallente, culinary manager at Olive Garden Ala Moana, oversees operations in the kitchen from start to finish. Because of the volume produced daily in the kitchen, one of her priorities is to make sure everything is ready to go, from knowing how many products to order down to plating and expediting.
I was able to sit down with the chef to hear more about what exciting things are coming to this brand and try the weekly lunch offerings.
And, just in time for graduation, the restaurant has expanded its catering offerings, including a beautiful lanai event space available for a turnkey event.
AL: How did you get into the culinary industry?
RV: I’m originally born and raised on the Big Island and have been in this industry for over 15 years, working at various hotels and also operating a catering business that was passed down from my mom. Anything to do with cooking is my passion.
During the pandemic, tourism came to a halt, and gatherings were no longer. I had to shift gears and move to the mainland to be with family. I started working at an Olive Garden there. I was ready to come back home.
AL: Can you give me your perspective on what Olive Garden brings to Hawaii?
RV: It’s a twist on Americanized Italian food — it’s quality food and brings value. Where else can you get unlimited soup and salad to start when ordering an entrée? We have a great kids’ menu and lunch specials are affordable.
AL: The Weekday Lunch-size favorites are affordably priced and a tremendous value. What dishes did you prepare for us?
RV: These weekly specials are priced from $13.19 to $15.19 — a tremendous value in addition to the quality you get in each dish. It’s available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, excluding holidays. Each lunch entrée comes with your choice of soup or salad.
The never-ending soup, salad and breadsticks is a favorite among our guests and a steal at $13.19. It’s your choice of unlimited homemade soup, served with our famous house salad and freshly baked hot breadsticks.
Our Five-cheese Ziti Al Forno ($14.19) is our oven-baked blend of Italian cheeses, ziti pasta and our signature homemade five-cheese marinara sauce.
The classic Fettucine Alfredo ($14.19) is our signature alfredo sauce made fresh in-house every morning and served over our fettuccine pasta.
The Spaghetti & Meatballs is $15.19, and you can choose either meat sauce, which is made with pan-seared beef and Italian sausage, or marinara. Our sauces are prepared fresh daily with garlic and herbs and served with two meatballs.
The Shrimp Scampi is another popular item for $15.19. This is a lighter take on an Italian classic and comes with five pieces of shrimp sauteed in garlic sauce, tossed in asparagus, tomatoes and angel hair pasta.
And, we can’t forget about our Lasagna Classico ($15.19) featuring layers of pasta, Italian cheeses and our homemade meat sauce.
AL: With graduation right around the corner, your catering options are a hidden secret. Can you tell me what that includes?
RV: We are taking reservations for large parties; the outdoor lanai space is available for no additional rental fee, just a recommended minimum spend for your catering package. Many guests like to reserve this space to host a large gathering and watch the fireworks on Friday evenings.
We can seat about 40 guests comfortably at our Ala Moana location, and if you prefer inside, we have the back-room option. At our Kapolei location, we can accommodate about 64 guests. We can also do high-top cocktail parties, buffets and are open to buyouts for any group that wants to have an event/celebration. We can accommodate weekdays, weekends and early mornings based on availability. We have had early morning baby showers here in this space.
If you are looking to have a function off-site, we have unique catering packages that offer everything all in one. Our Create Your Own Pasta Station package is pretty popular as it includes everything: two pastas, three sauces and three toppings. It also includes our famous house salad and freshly baked bread sticks as well as Sternos, chafing pans, sauces, pastas, chicken, meatballs and sausage.
On average it comes out to about $25-$30 per head. We do offer a bar menu as well that would be additional.