To this day the most memorable week of my life was my holiday to Rome.
Memorable firstly because it was the first time my then girlfriend, now fiancée, and I went abroad together (it seemingly made us rather than broke us, as the saying goes).
But putting romance to one side, it was memorable because it opened by eyes to all things authentically Italian.
The history; the people; the wine; the coffee; the sunshine; the beer; and of course, the food.
As a well-established lover of the foundations of Italian food I was interested to devour authentic food – of which I did a lot of.
Flash forward three years and after a Saturday of sitting in the sun with good people and good beverages, we decided that we needed something to remind us of the aforementioned holiday that we wish we could afford to repeat this year!
Since moving to Lancashire two years ago I’ve always heard of a local Italian restaurant called The Olive Garden, just north of Standish, near Wigan, and just south of Coppull, near Chorley.
It actually sits on Preston Road next door to a curry house I have previously reviewed, Cinnamon Indian Cuisine, so I knew it without realising just where it was.
We booked in for 7.45pm and upon arrival could tell we were lucky to get a table for two, with every other table occupied.
We ordered a drink – a pint of Czech lager Kozel for me, a glass of pinot for the Mrs-to-be – and were asked to sit in the waiting area while the table was prepared.
No problem for us, with the lager going down well. We were soon shown to our seats by a member of the extremely welcoming hospitality team.
One of the first things I noticed about the menu was that all dishes were in their native Italian with the English explained underneath.
A small thing, but always something I value. Why put simple old lasagne when you can write Lasagna al Forno?
For starters we decided to split the Involtini Caprino, or deep fried goats cheese parcel wrapped in film pastry, onion chutney, sweet chilli sauce, balsamic drizzle, and Costicini di Mailale, Olive Garden-style pork ribs in their signature Jack Daniels BBQ sauce.
At £6.95 and £3.95 respectively, the value was fantastic, with both extremely different and oozing with flavour.
But before we could actually try them the already low-level lighting lowered some more with a birthday cake brought out for a nearby table.
But this was no ordinary celebration with ‘Happy Birthday’ sang. Instead every member of staff dropped what they were doing and gathered round clapping in beat to an unknown Italian song (apologies for my ignorance) while the girl whose seventh birthday it was got on to the table and started dancing.
Everyone in the restaurant joined in the clapping, me included. You would have had to have been Ebenezer Scrooge himself to not smile and laugh.
This happened a further two times in the evening – something that went down a treat every time with those eating out.
For the mains I opted against pasta and pizza, instead choosing the Pollo Proscuitto e Asparagi, made up of chicken breast stuffed with asparagus, wrapped in parma ham over fine herb risotto and topped with dolcelatte sauce.
My fiancée chose the Pollo al Funghetto dish, made up of grilled breast of chicken with wild and field mushrooms, white wine and cream sauce.
At £14.94 it was the most expensive main not to include steak, but don’t let that put you off. The chicken was tender and the asparagus was cooked perfectly with the parma ham.
At £13.95, the Pollo al Funghetto was almost as much in value and just as much in flavour, with the mushroom and white wine sauce base providing a strong flavour base.
For dessert we shared a vanilla cheesecake and waffles with honeycomb ice cream.
At £4.95 each the cost was reasonable for what were both appetising sweet treats.
The sun had well and truly set when we left. But we left with our stomachs’ full and smiles on our faces. Who needs Rome when you’ve got The Olive Garden?