Multimillion-Dollar Olive Garden Coming to Las Vegas Strip, Locals Have Mixed Reaction

Posted on: August 31, 2020, 02:20h. 

Last updated on: August 31, 2020, 03:13h.

An Olive Garden is coming to the Las Vegas Strip, and the Italian chain restaurant’s inclusion on the main drag opposite of Park MGM is generating a strong response from locals.

Olive Garden Las Vegas restaurants
Sandwiched in between a Ross and Walgreens, and above a Target, Olive Garden is on its way to the Las Vegas Strip, and hoping to become part of the Southern Nevada family. (Image: Bridget Bennet/The New York Times)

COVID-19 has changed Las Vegas — at least temporarily. Casinos are operating in reduced capacities, with numerous health safety measures in place, and with visitor volumes considerably down because of the pandemic, Strip resorts are offering cheap hotel rates.

Many area locals have been quick to share their opinion that those who are venturing to Southern Nevada currently are of a more plebeian demographic. The fact that Olive Garden parent company Darden Restaurants is planning to spend a few million dollars to incorporate the Italian restaurant chain onto the Strip has verified that notion to some.

People who eat at the OG while on vacation are probably back in their hotel room by 9 p.m. and complain because Bellagio doesn’t offer a free continental breakfast,” said one local in response to Las Vegas Locally tweeting about the Olive Garden.

Eater Las Vegas broke the news that Olive Garden plans to spend $3.75 million to renovate the third floor of 3767 Las Vegas Boulevard S. A new Target recently opened on the two floors below. The site is where the former Smith & Wollensky steakhouse stood. The restaurant closed in 2017 and reopened inside The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes in May of 2019.

Las Vegas is home to 26 restaurants that have received either Four or Five Diamond designations from AAA. Located just off the MGM Grand casino floor, Joël Robuchon is consistently ranked as the top restaurant.

Locals Triggered

As is the case in cities and towns across America, chain restaurants often grab prestigious rankings in their hometown newspaper among local readers. Olive Garden has continually been named “Best Italian Restaurant” by readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“We get it … to a point. There’s one in every neighborhood, and it’s hard to bypass a never-ending pasta bowl,” the RJ editorial team wrote in 2014.

But we live in Las Vegas. We have options. So next time you want to take the family out for a big night, or take that special someone somewhere a little more personal, don’t be afraid to pass on the OG for an Only-in-Vegas dining experience,” the media outlet added.

Scott Roeben, who runs the popular Vital Vegas Twitter account, recently named a few of his favorite Italian joints. They include Esther’s Kitchen, Nora’s, Pizza Rock, Carmine’s at Caesars Palace Forum Shops, and Buddy V’s and Mercato della Pescheria at The Venetian.

OG Defended

As a 10-year resident of New York City/North Jersey, I became quite spoiled with authentic Italian. Now back in south-central Pennsylvania, I admit it’s tough to find legitimate Italian food (the short trek to Baltimore’s Little Italy is well worth it).

But Olive Garden serves a purpose, and in 2016 I won one of the “Never-Ending Pasta Pass” cards, which provided nine weeks of all I could eat pasta, soup, salad, and breadsticks.

And while Las Vegas casinos offer some of the best restaurants in the world, there are locals who also believe OG indeed has a time and place — including on the Strip.

“There’s Giordano’s, Denny’s, Outback, and Chili’s on the Strip. As incredible as it may seem that these places are able to stay open, it may be evidence that a large percentage of Strip visitors have palates that are far less adventurous than what we’ve assumed,” opined a Las Vegas Locally reader.