New Olive Garden Menu Celebrates Flavors of Italy

June 8, 2000

ORLANDO, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 8, 2000--Drawing from the heart of Italy, the Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, a division of Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI - news), has introduced a new menu featuring the finest, freshest, most robust flavors of Italy.

With this menu, Olive Garden brings new, delicious creative dishes to its 469 restaurants in North America.

The new Olive Garden Riserva di Fizzano restaurant, located in a restored eleventh century village overlooking Tuscany, near Florence, Italy, served as the inspiration for many of the flavorful new dishes now featured on the menu. The new Olive Garden Riserva di Fizzano restaurant and the Culinary Institute of Tuscany were established in cooperation with the Zingarelli's, an Italian family that owns and operates the Rocca delle Macie winery, one of Italy's leading producers of Tuscan wines.

Olive Garden culinary team members from restaurants across North America participate in a formal training program, visiting the Culinary Institute of Tuscany to learn firsthand about traditional Italian cooking techniques including how to create perfect pasta and how to prepare flavorful sauces from the freshest ingredients. They also learn about regional wines and Italian culture, all from local master chefs. From the hands-on instruction in the kitchens of the Culinary Institute to their visits to the time-honored al fresco markets of Florence, culinary team members are immersed in the tradition and spirit of Italian cooking. Upwards of 100 Olive Garden culinary managers will visit the Culinary Institute of Tuscany each year.

``Our new menu items bring the essence, passion and warmth of Italy's most popular fare to our family of local restaurants across North America,'' said Drew Madsen, executive vice president of marketing for Olive Garden. ``We have immersed ourselves in the rich tradition of Italian cuisine, where freshness and flavor are supreme. We look forward to delighting every guest with a genuine Italian dining experience.''

Fresh, colorful vegetables and herbs, extra virgin olive oil, and enticing sauces create the truly Italian flavors and spirit of the following new dishes:

Chicken Vino Bianco: A light summer Tuscan favorite of pan-seared chicken breasts with mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and garlic in a white wine butter sauce served over linguine.

Pork Filettino: A favorite of guests at Riserva di Fizzano in Tuscany is this grilled pork tenderloin marinated in extra-virgin olive oil and fresh rosemary and served with roasted potatoes.

Penne Romana: Inspired by Romana Neri, head chef at the Culinary Institute and restaurant in Tuscany, this is a simple and delicious pasta dish with fresh green beans, tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil tossed with penne in a white wine herb sauce.

Lobster Spaghetti: This classic Italian favorite is a delightful dish of lobster and spinach sauteed with extra-virgin olive oil in a creamy lobster broth.

Tortelloni di Fizzano: Tortelloni stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach with a creamy beef and pork Bolognese sauce.

Veal Scallopine: Straight from the family dining table at Riserva di Fizzano comes tender veal sauteed with extra-virgin olive oil and white wine served with fresh green beans.

The new desserts include:

Biscotti Fruit Torte: Fresh seasonal fruits served with a creamy zabaglione nestled in a freshly baked biscotti cookie crust.

Chocolate Lasagna: Layers of rich chocolate cake and sweet butter cream topped with morsels of semi-sweet chocolate.

Italian Cookies: Sweet Italian favorites including a chewy almond flavored pine nut cookie, a crunchy pistachio nut cookie, and fruit-filled sugar cookies.

``The secret to real Italian cooking is using the finest, freshest ingredients,'' said Paolo Lafata, executive chef for Olive Garden. ``The delicious flavors and wonderful aromas are irresistible. The only thing left to say to our guests is `Bon Appetito!'''

Adding to the genuine Italian dining experience at Olive Garden is a newly expanded wine list. Pairing the right wine with delicious food enhances the flavor of both.

So in addition to such well-known names as Robert Mondavi, Kendall-Jackson, Sutter Home and Moet & Chandon, Olive Garden has added Italian wines from Bertani, Cavit, Cecchi, and Rocca delle Macie, one of Italy's leading producers of Chianti wines. Featured on the wine list is Olive Garden's signature Principato wines, imported from Trentino, Italy.

The perfect glass of wine can be paired with any dish on the Olive Garden menu. In fact, suggested wines are featured from the appetizer course through dessert.

Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment with more than 50,000 employees and $1.5 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden restaurants, Inc., the world's largest casual dining company.

Beginning June 12, visit Olive Garden's new web site at Andiamo!