Noodle Knockout: North Fattoria Italiana vs. Olive Garden

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Don't worry, you read that right. We put Sam Fox's brand new North up against Olive Garden.

We thought it would be funny. We thought maybe Sam Fox's new Italian restaurant would prove to be comparable to corporate Italian beast Olive Garden. We thought that we could prove once and for all that no matter how much money you dump into making your contrived and sometimes ridiculous restaurant concept look good, it really is about the food. And the word around town, as you know, is that the food at Fox restaurants just isn't very good.

In the spirit of the battle, we picked out two very similar dishes: the capellini pomodoro from Olive Garden and the bucatini from North. Both dishes kept it simple with noodles, basil, and tomatoes. Read on to see why this match-up was like pairing a young Mike Tyson against an 8-year-girl. It wasn't even fair.

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In This Corner: Olive Garden

The Setup: The Tempe Olive Garden seems to have received a face lift since the last time I was there in 2007. With all the plastic "stone" accents gone and the comfy chairs on wheels replaced with wooden ladderback-style seating, the corporate restaurant looks even more generic. The booths have been replaced with more open tables, and the décor now looks like a cheap hotel lobby. (I'll be honest: This place is actually depressing. A cold, sad chill came over me upon walking in, and I really wanted to leave immediately.)

The Good: When I was about 12, this was my absolute favorite place to eat. (I am a product of the strip mall-ridden 1990s Ahwatukee, and I don't think there was a single independently owned restaurant in sight.) So when my giant salad with OG's signature dressing and the basket of warm breadsticks was placed on my table, I was actually kinda stoked. The salad and the bread still taste exactly the same, and I figured everything else would be just as I remembered, too.

When my bowl of capellini pomodoro -- a dish of angel hair pasta with olive oil, basil, and seasoned tomatoes -- arrived, it didn't look so bad either. The tomatoes were bright, and after a quick sprinkling of cheese, the dish looked more than edible.

The Bad: Just because something looks edible doesn't mean it is. This was what comedian Patton Oswalt would refer to as "A failure pile in a sadness bowl." The pasta was overcooked and mushy, the tomatoes tasted like they were from a can and were almost salty, the basil was undetectable, and even that layer of cheese couldn't save the mess.

The food wasn't the only thing that was bad. Our inexperienced server (it was her second week. I know this because she reminded me, like, seven times) was so nervous that it made me nervous, and the woman at the table across from me wouldn't stop talking with her mouth full of food. Food literally was falling out of her mouth as she talked. The entire experience was one that I hope to never experience again. Ever.

Location Info

NoRTH

4925 N. 40th St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant


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14 comments
Barb
Barb

That was hilarious. The Patton Oswalt comment is spot on.

Jennieleetham
Jennieleetham

Ha! I love the Patton Oswalt quote. This is hilarious!

Soggy Noodle
Soggy Noodle

Food at North was mediocre at best, a couples steps above Buca di Beppo. The atmosphere is meh, the service is annoying, if you don't feel like you fit in your surrounding fellow eaters will make sure you know it by the snide sideways glares and try getting a few tables together for a friendly gathering of friends it wont happen since it's virtually impossible.  Buca di Beppo at least gives you the freedom to relax, friendly atmosphere, fun, neat things to explore on the walls, you enter via the kitchen, lots of room for gatherings, they sing you happy birthday on your birthday (or you can play that practical joke on friends). If Buca or North isn't your savvy then drive about 10 minutes south and enjoy the LGO community of establishments!

Hock
Hock

But the salad and bread at Olive Garden aren't good...I don't get it.

Guest
Guest

The salad and breadsticks taste the same everywhere. This piece is pathetic. Shit, you might as well stab people but putting up the battle of italian restaurant vs noca, that would at least ensure a bigger shit show.

Adan Maddox
Adan Maddox

The salad and the bread still taste exactly the same, and I figured everything else would be just as I remembered, too.

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

Meanwhile, for roughly the same price for pastas, Urciuoli's eating his lunch back at Noca.

Wonderbread1976
Wonderbread1976

Well Sam fox does have Chris Curtiss now, the chef that brought NOCA to light. What did you expect with him at the helm? Yes the cheesy outfits are bad, but the food is amazing there for the price point!

Draketg
Draketg

Snobby is right.  Holy shit.

Fixing a Food Fight?
Fixing a Food Fight?

 Props to the reverse psychology Lede: Starting with a sharp jab at Fox restaurants may have drawn some in with the notion of a fair fight. In the end, of course, the judge's scoring seemed pretty predictable.  What's on the food fight card next, Mastro's Ocean Club vs. Long John Silver's?  

El_Extranjero
El_Extranjero

No, the bread and the salad does not taste the same everywhere.  OG's bread is bland, kind of like plain hot dog bun...only warm.

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