Taking a bite out of Applebee’s, putting rubber bands on the claws of Red Lobster and laying flowers at the grave of Joe’s Crab Shack, comes 125th Street’s next national chain restaurant, Olive Garden. Monday, Dec. 12, New York City’s newest Olive Garden restaurant opened to the Harlem public on the second floor of 100 W. 125th Street, one floor below the new Burlington. 

The new restaurant features an updated design with new artwork, fabrics and materials, lighting, seating, countertops and flooring, as well as a display of the new “Olive Garden Italian Kitchen” logo sign. The 10,000-square-foot restaurant accommodates more than 300 guests with a full dining room, café area and bar.

The restaurant will create more than 170 new jobs for the surrounding community. Twelve-year Olive Garden veteran and general manager, Daryl Cunningham, tells me 60 percent of their staff lives in Harlem as a result of an early neighborhood recruiting initiative. Additionally, the restaurant donated the proceeds of their Friends and Family events to the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem. 

The Olive Garden menu continues to feature guest favorites, Lasagna Classico and unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks, as well as new lighter menu items featuring shrimp scampi, chicken piccata and others inspired by Italy’s Mediterranean region. Look out for new dishes such as grilled chicken piadina and the spicy Calabrian chicken sandwiched between their famous breadsticks.