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Mamma mia, its finally here!: Olive Garden opens in Valdosta

Attention, Italian-food lovers: Olive Garden has come to Valdosta.

About 200 people gathered in anticipation of the restaurant’s grand opening Monday afternoon.

“We’re a family restaurant focusing on delighting everyone with a genuine Italian dining experience,” Eric Kosloff, Olive Garden director of operations, said. “A lot of people are excited because it will save them trips to Warner Robins, Tallahassee and Gainesville.”

Some felt the restaurant’s arrival was long overdue.

“This is something Valdosta needed,” Snoopy Stanley, 39-year-old Valdosta resident, said. “It provides variety and that was something Valdosta has been missing for 10 years now.”

Some customers thought that the restaurant’s St. Augustine Road location could not be better.

“They definitely built it in the perfect area,” Stacy Sirmans, 44-year-old, Valdosta resident, said. “Being right off the highway will bring them a lot more business.”

General Manager Theresa Strickland greeted the crowd at the door, hopeful about the night ahead.

“This will be a great night for us,” she said. “Right now we’re anticipating to remain busy from now until closing.”

As she expected, customers packed the lobby and more lined up throughout the night.

Host and junior journalism major Anthony Pope felt prepared for the night.

“There are a lot of people here, but we’ve had the proper training to deal with any situation, so I’m not worried,” he said.

Out of thousands of applicants, 165 people were hired.

“We have the best of the best in town,” Kosloff said.

Many customers were impressed with the Italian environment the moment they set foot inside.

“It looks amazing,” Valdosta resident Joe McGhee, said. “I love the floor plan and the décor.”

Strickland expects many guests will enjoy a plethora of Italian dishes from chicken carbonara to grilled chicken flatbread.

“We have fettuccini alfredo, mixed grills, classic parmesan dishes and a lot of promotional items,” Strickland said.

Service Manager Joshua Allen encourages people to come out.

“Folks have been traveling a long way for a long time to get this kind of great food and even better service,” Allen said. “Those days are over and we’re glad to be here.”

Update: The print version ran Olive Garden’s opening week’s hours of operations. However its regular hours are Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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