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Food & Recipes

Olive Garden’s New Meatball Pizza Bowl Has Divided the Internet — And Our Office


Olive Garden just added a meatball pizza bowl — think a taco bowl filled with sauce, cheese, and meatballs — to its lunch menu, and, unsurprisingly, it’s divided the internet. The Italian chain’s creation is made from pizza dough, but the crust apparently tastes like Olive Garden’s famous endless breadsticks. Inside, ten spicy sausage meatballs swim in a sea of mozzarella, Parmesan, and Asiago cheese. Now, does that sound like an amazing culinary creation — or a totally over-the-top menu item? Here, two FIRST editors have offered their (surprisingly passionate) arguments for each case.

Let’s talk about the design.

Jennifer: Olive Garden is simply pleasing everyone with genius engineering. The biggest problem facing busy pizza-lovers everywhere? You can’t eat and move at the same time! From navigating crowds of people to the potential of grease spills to not having enough hands, enjoying a slice on the go is just too precarious. I can easily eat this bowl anywhere, so it’s perfect if I’m on-the-go or sitting down. The portable design reminds me of a taco salad, which is — FACT — one of the best salads to exist. Thanks to this nifty bowl, if you’re trying to cut back on carbs  (not me) you can enjoy the cheese, meat, and sauce without the crust. Olive Garden has just solved a problem that’s plagued the human race for centuries. We should be grateful.

Melanie: This O.G. monstrosity must have been dreamed up by some lucky person who can eat whatever he or she wants without gaining a single pound. For us regular folks, this concept should have stayed in dreamland where it couldn’t hurt anyone. Not only will I gain 10 pounds just imagining myself eating this, I would surely tack on another 15 if I were to dive into this poorly designed behemoth.

Not to mention the fact that the ratio of meat to cheese to bread will be all messed up the moment you start eating. If you start from the middle, you get meat and cheese but no bread. If you start from the outside, you have to break the bowl and the sauce will spill everywhere. If you spend too long deciding where to start, the sauce causes the bowl to disintegrate — and then you’re better off just asking for a spoon. I say save yourself the trouble (and the mess) by avoiding it entirely.

Why is it a lunch option?

Jennifer: Nothing says “afternoon pick-me-up” like a large bowl of carbs and cheese. I’m really hungry by the time lunch rolls around, and I’d be happy to dive into this bowl of deliciousness. I usually eat a salad during lunch, but I’m always hungry later in the day, so I’m constantly snacking. This big boy would definitely keep me full: It’s packed with bread, cheese, sauce, and 10 (yes, 10!) meatballs and weighs more than a pound. You don’t even need endless salad and breadsticks with this meal, but let’s be honest, I’d still eat those, too. I wouldn’t even need to eat dinner after such a satisfying lunch, which is perfect because I hate to cook.

Melanie: Nothing says “I’m not going to get any work done after lunch” like a heavy bowl of saucy, meaty carbs. I would gladly suffer through a salad at lunch because not only can I pat myself on the back for being “healthy,” but also I don’t have to worry about the boss finding me staring glassy-eyed at the same spreadsheet for 20 minutes, regretting my lunch choices, and daydreaming about taking a nap.

Has Olive Garden taken it too far?

Jennifer: I agree with the statement that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it — and pizza is perfect as it is. But as a true pizza lover, I embrace all types of pie: thin crust, stuffed-crust, deep dish, you name it. So of course I’m open to this new take on a beloved original. The meatball pizza bowl isn’t changing the classic ingredients or introducing weird food; it’s just putting it in a new, delicious form. (If we’re going to get into real pizza abominations, let’s talk about cauliflower crust.) It’s 2018 — we have sushi burritos, low-fat avocados, rainbow bagels, glitter lattes. There’s certainly room for more pizza.

Melanie: No one asked for this. We were happy enough being blessed with those endless breadsticks and a salad dressing yummy enough to mask the sad, boring taste of lettuce. Why couldn’t we have just stopped there and admitted we couldn’t do better? We don’t need a meatball pizza bowl just like we don’t need millennials proposing to their partners with avocados (yes, it’s a thing — we so, so, so wish it wasn’t, but it is) or kale on everything. Why, Olive Garden? Why?!

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