By Alicia Squillante

Not long ago I was able to dine at the Olive Garden across from the Westfield Mall in Brandon, located at 2602 W. Brandon Blvd., which was recently renovated, and was pleasantly surprised at how graciously I was welcomed. I was greeted instantly by one of the lovely hostesses and was taken almost immediately to the dining area, which looked very polished with the new dark wood dining tables and comfortable matching chairs.

The experience was delightful, easily one of the best outings I’ve had in years, with the wait staff being beyond accommodating and helpful and thoroughly knowledgeable about the menu to boot. After what seemed like an hour pouring over the menu, we decided upon the 2 for $25 Dinner special, in which we were given our choice of the all-time favorite house salad or soup, and breadsticks to start off with.

Later our meals arrived, piping hot and nearly intoxicating, with the aroma making our stomachs grumble despite the salad and breadsticks we had just eaten. I had ordered the eggplant parmigiana and my guest had decided to try the sausage and peppers Rustica, a lovely pasta dish with a bit of a kick. Both meals were washed down with samples of the Castello del Poggio, a sweet, fruity Moscato that paired with our meal and dessert equally well. At the end of the dinner, Tony Gettner, the Service Manager for the Brandon location, sat down to talk with us about the renovations to the restaurant and how they had been one of 20 locations in the nation that had the changes made.

Almost everything had been updated, from the carpeting and window treatments to the bar area and signage.  “We want our guests to feel like this is their home,” Gettner explained. Darrell Sullivan, General Manager, later explained that the old furnishing had not gone to waste when the restaurant received its facelift. “As part of the restaurant’s commitment to the community, we donated our old furnishings to local Habitat for Humanity ReStore resale outlets, which sell items to the general public to raise funds for constructing homes in their communities for families in need,” said Sullivan. “I am very proud to work for a company that prides itself on giving back.”

For more information, please visit or you can call the Brandon location directly at 685-5900. They are open Sunday-Thursday from 11a.m.-10p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 11a.m.-11p.m.


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