There are no Olive Gardens in Italy. In fact, I don't remember seeing any big chain restaurants in Italy. It's not that there weren't any, it's just that given the incredible number of unique restaurants and cafes, there was no impetus to even pay any attention to large commercial ventures. The food itself was almost consistently amazing and far more varied than one would be lead to believe coming from the US.
That's because, back here in the States, Italian food has all but lost its meaning where "Italian Restaurant" loosely translates to pasta and/or pizza with a glass of wine. There are, however, some authentically Italian restaurants in our area run by authentically Italian people that serve authentically good Italian food. One such example is Riverside's Primi Piatti.
Apparently the menu used to be even more authentic but slight concessions were made in order to attract business. Regardless, the food here is quite exquisite and the dear lady has even gone so far to say that the meal we enjoyed is the best she's had in years. For a starter I had the Spinach Salad: spinach, red onions, almonds, and a creamy gorgonzola dressing. I don't typically like dressing on salads but this particular one was incredible. A lovely salad indeed, well worth the horrendous breath you end up with after eating the onions and gorgonzola.
For our main courses we ordered the the Spinach and Garlic Ravioli, a special, and the Chicken Primi: chicken sauteed in artichokes, fresh herbs, and a black truffle and brandy cream sauce. I've been emphatically assured that the ravioli was "the best ravioli I've had in my entire life" but I'm unable to corroborate because I didn't get to try any for that very reason. I did, however, enjoy my chicken primi so much that I used what little remaining bread there was to sop up the last traces of the sauce.
I've read a few complaints about the prices at Primi Piatti but I can only counter with the old adage that you pay for quality. If you add the bill to the distinguished decor and low lighting, you've got the perfect place to take a date for a romantic meal that's sure to impress. I know I'll be convinced to go back, especially if they keep me informed about when they'll be serving the spinach and garlic ravioli.
2722 Park Street
Jacksonville, FL 32205-7608