10 of the greatest Olive Garden menu items of all-time

KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2019/01/25: Olive Garden restaurant billboard ad. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)
KISSIMMEE, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2019/01/25: Olive Garden restaurant billboard ad. (Photo by John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

When it comes to Italian cuisine, classic Italian cuisine, nobody really thinks of the Olive Garden, or rather, perhaps they shouldn’t, and honestly, nobody makes it better than the original Nonnas and Mommas, cooking up a storm in some kitchen in Greenwich Village, or even deep in the depths of Montreal East, or really, any version of Little Italy all over North America.

And when you can’t get that authentic taste, a great classic restaurant that serves up the most epic of ancient recipes this side of the Atlantic, is definitely in order. But sometimes, budget certainly comes into play, and a whopping 30 bucks for the ravioli dish served up at Tony’s Piazza down the street is just way too much; you’ve certainly got to weigh your options.

Of course, going to Italy would be recourse, but that isn’t always possible, dear readers. It has been years since I’ve walked onto the Italian shores myself, and tasted the food that heralds from my father’s native land…the food epically good in Pescara, a wonderful ocean side town, Naples and even Rome. Ah…I can still taste that pizza.

But here in North America, we’ve got to watch the wallet as well as what we decide to eat when that craving comes crashing into our brains and into our souls…hence the term soul food.

Enter the Olive Garden.

No, it isn’t momma’s cooking, or the food created and crafted by the hands of Italian chefs that trained for hours and hours, but it comes close, and close, is most certainly good enough. The Olive Garden isn’t the haute gamme (to borrow from the French) sort of cuisine, but it certainly does the trick.

We’ve decided to go ahead and rank 10 of Olive Garden’s greatest dishes, so keep them in mind when you get a craving, dear readers

10. Zuppa Toscana

Zuppa, which means soup, is an appetizer worth thinking about, especially with the cold weather working its way into our lives here in the Northern States and Canada.

Specifically, Classic Italian soup contains: crushed red peppers, diced white onion, bacon, Italian sausage, garlic puree, heavy cream, potatoes, kale…all in a chicken bouillon base. The version at the Olive Garden does just fine in satisfying a craving for the original but it doesn’t beat it, I’m afraid.

9. Stuffed Mushrooms

When the cooking bug first hit, I was twelve years old. I’d start working with my father at the age of 15, learning classic Italian dishes like these, and others. But it was when I was twelve that I first learned how to make these, preparing a three course dinner with my mother for their anniversary dinner. Whenever I start my meal at the Olive Garden with this option, it’s that day I think back to.

8. Calamari

Now talk about the perfect appetizer. To my estimation, there’s no greater way to start an Italian meal than with fried fish…specifically shrimp, calamari and scallops. But calamari needs to be done just right or else they tend to get soggy.

I prepared quite a few of these in my day at the fry station, and Olive Garden do them well.

7. Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara

Yes, these are undoubtedly a trip into the realms of high cholesterol, but man is Carbonara an exquisite pasta dish. We hope only that the white meat and the omega 3 fatty acids in the shrimp help to counterbalance all the egg yolk.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

6. Shrimp Alfredo

And very much like the last recipe, this one’s a tad heavy. Let’s just say you won’t be eating much of this if you’re trying to cut down for that charity marathon, but make a date to have a cheat meal once it’s over and you’ve raised a lot of money for a good cause, and go to the Olive Garden and have yourself a plate of this…heck, have two. It is a cheat meal after all.

5. Eggplant Parmesan

Not necessarily a heavy option and one of the healthiest and lightest of the Parmesan dishes, although there is a lot of cheese here, but the flavor combination is just so perfect…cheese, sauce, eggplant. All of it a pairing made in heaven…right there in the Olive Garden kitchen.

4. Warm Apple Crostada

And you’ve got to have something sweet; especially when starting a meal with soup or even the aforementioned calamari, and an Italian Apple Pie is the perfect way to end a heavy meal.

3. Zeppoli

Now if you don’t mind all the heaviness and fried food, then this donut—an Italian Donut—is the perfect way to take your meal over the top. Just be ready to have the waiters and waitresses take you outside, point you in the right direction and get you rolling home. That’s how heavy these are.

In most Italian customs, these are primarily enjoyed during the Feast of St. Joseph, or during that week, the bakeries making a killing during that particular season (the actual feast is March 19th), but there are some locations that make these year-round. Olive Garden is one of those locations.

2. Lasagnia Fritta

What’s better than lasagna? Garfield says nothing. I agree with that adorable lazy orange cat from my childhood. But I would love to see the look on his face when I put one of these in front of him. Fried Lasagna! The word priceless comes to mind.

1. Chicken Parmesan

You can’t mess with a classic. Chicken breast, battered with flour, egg wash, garlic breadcrumbs, and topped with tomato sauce and cheese. What can go wrong?

Niente, which means nothing in Italian.

Buon appetito, cari lettori (dear readers).

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Did we miss any? If so, let us know what you love to eat when visiting your local Olive Garden location.