Several dishes from Olive Garden

Top Dishes at Olive Garden: A Culinary Overview

Dining at Olive Garden has become a popular option for Americans since the eatery was founded over 40 years ago. The restaurant chain gained popularity for its Italian style cuisine that caters to American palates. While traditional Italian food is a bit pricey, for those looking to pay a bit less and forgo some authenticity, Olive Garden is a great alternative and has a variety of menu options. Even if you aren’t strapped for cash, sometimes you can’t deny the satisfaction of having endless breadsticks and salad before digging into a signature entrée.

Whatever the reason for your trip to Olive Garden, there are plenty of flavors and pastas available on the menu. When it comes to picking the best dishes, choosing a filling meal with a memorable taste is an important determining factor. The restaurant conveniently offers different protein options, ranging from red meat to poultry, seafood, and more. Although the proteins are creatively incorporated into various meals throughout the menu, only a few items are considered the restaurant’s best dishes.

Chicken parmigiana

Chicken parmigiana from Olive Garden

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The chicken parmigiana can be a hit or miss depending on the chef, but when it is made correctly, the customer can count on being served some unforgettable flavors. The dish is made with the perfect amount of sauce on both the chicken and the pasta. While the description of the dish boasts two lightly fried chicken breasts, we can’t deny that we love the crispness of the breaded Parmesan coating when it is slightly overcooked. The chicken breasts are topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. The marinara adds a vibrant flavor to the crispy chicken without turning it into a soggy mess and causing the fried breading to fall apart.

Conveniently, the side of spaghetti acts as a delightful addition to the chicken parm, breaking up some of the saltiness in the coating. If spaghetti and marinara sauce isn’t your thing, you can customize your pasta side. Fettuccine Alfredo is a great alternative and its combination with the marinara sauce along with the chicken parm results in a pleasantly surprising taste.

Chicken Alfredo

Chicken Alfredo from Olive Garden

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The signature Olive Garden chicken Alfredo dish never disappoints when dining in. Of course, there are plenty of copycat recipes online, but nothing quite compares to the original. The smoothness of the sauce and the tenderness of the fettuccine noodles, along with the grilled chicken provides a soothing sensation in your mouth that makes you eager for the next bite. However, when it comes to takeout, requesting an extra Alfredo sauce on the side is a necessity to enjoy the dish in all of its greatness. Taking into consideration how long it takes you to pick up your takeout and the time you spend transporting the dish to its destination, by the time you reheat the meal, you can expect dry noodles.

The extra Alfredo on the side will allow you to reheat the meal to the desired temperature while still getting the creaminess of the Alfredo sauce. Even if the meal is still hot upon arrival, the Alfredo sauce on the side won’t go to waste. The dish always tastes great with some extra Alfredo, and it can also act as a dipping sauce for the breadsticks.

Shrimp Alfredo

Shrimp Alfredo from Olive Garden

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This selection may be considered a little controversial, but it is definitely worth a taste before you write it off. The meal is quite simple and made up of fettuccine noodles, Alfredo, and topped with shrimp. While the dish typically comes with enough Alfredo to coat the shrimp and noodles, asking for an additional side of the sauce will come in handy if you prefer a saucier dish. The great thing about the meal is that the shrimp is succulent rather than overcooked and mushy. The texture isn’t chewy, which is a welcomed surprise while noshing on the soft noodles.

Even though the shrimp doesn’t appear to be sufficiently seasoned, the combination of the Alfredo and the signature grated Parmesan cheese create the creamiest Alfredo sauce that you never knew you needed. Despite the lack of seasoning, the shrimp doesn’t taste fishy or give off that undesirable ocean taste. Instead, the muted flavors come together to make a savory and fulfilling dish.

Chicken tortelloni Alfredo

Chicken tortelloni Alfredo

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You definitely won’t leave Olive Garden feeling hungry after eating the chicken tortelloni Alfredo. It’s easy to look at the name and confuse this dish with tortellini, which is a small pasta that is typically stuffed with meat. The tortelloni is a larger pasta with a similar shape and is usually stuffed with a cheese-based filling. The Chicken Tortellini Alfredo dish is made up of tortelloni filled with asiago cheese, baked with Italian cheeses in Alfredo sauce, and topped with grilled chicken. The asiago filling adds a sharp taste to the meal, while the chicken has a bit of a smoky flavor that elevates the entire dish.

Since it is a baked dish, the tortelloni and Alfredo come with some golden brown coloring that adds to the overall presentation and appeal of the meal. If you fill up on breadsticks and salad beforehand, chances are you will be able to take half of your meal home to have leftovers for later.

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Tour of Italy

Lasagna, alfredo, and chicken parmigiana

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The Tour of Italy at Olive Garden gives customers a sample of some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes; chicken parmigiana, fettuccine Alfredo, and lasagna classico. You can start with any dish on the plate, but the chicken parmigiana is a great way to kick off the meal. The crispy chicken breast topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese provides a burst of tangy yet salty flavors. The chicken parm also adds texture and crunch to the Tour of Italy dish that has a majority of soft noodles. The lasagna classico features multiple layers of rich meat sauce, noodles, and cheese.

The fettuccine Alfredo makes the meal complete when saddled in between the two other dishes that possess powerful flavors. The popular sauce, which consists of ingredients like garlic, butter, cream, and Parmesan, offers a great balance and breaks from the flavors of the lasagna and chicken parm. Overall, the dish offers a variety of flavors that mesh well together whether you combine the components or eat them separately.

Chicken and shrimp carbonara

Chicken and shrimp carbonara pasta

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Whether you’re in the mood for poultry or seafood, you can get the best of both worlds with the chicken and shrimp carbonara from Olive Garden. The dish consists of spaghetti, red peppers, bacon, chicken, and shrimp tossed in a creamy sauce. The decadent dish is elevated when you add on the restaurant’s freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The shrimp and chicken are seasoned and sautéed while the bacon starts out crispy, but it becomes softer throughout the meal. The good part about the softer bacon is the flavor appears to soak into the dish more.

The chicken has some crispness and markings to it that helps add some texture and a slight crunch to the meal. The shrimp is succulent and allows for smooth chewing throughout the dish. Whether you finish the chicken and shrimp carbonara at the rest restaurant or take it home to eat later, it comes with more than enough sauce, so reheating shouldn’t be an issue (after you bring your leftovers to room temperature).

Lasagna classico

Lasagna from Olive Garden

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With layers of tangy cheeses and robust meat sauce, this classic lasagna is packed with flavor. The presentation of the lasagna classico is visually appealing in that you can see each layer and know what you are getting in every bite. The marinara sauce is tangy but is tamed by the ricotta cheese, which manages to balance the acidic flavor. The meat sauce is made up of beef and Italian sausage and adds to the mouthwatering aspects of the savory dish. The hearty meal is quite filling, especially if you indulge in the salad and breadsticks beforehand.

When it comes to leftovers, reheating the meal may be an issue. Past experiences have found that reheating the dish in the microwave or the oven results in a melted cheesy mess. While the flavors will still be there, the initial structure of the lasagna will be long gone. This meal is best enjoyed when dining at the restaurant.

Spaghetti and meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs

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You can’t go wrong with a classic like spaghetti and meatballs. The classic meal never fails to satisfy, and luckily, at Olive Garden, you can look forward to large meatballs with your choice of marinara or meat sauce. Customers can expect a generous portion of al dente noodles and tender meatballs topped with a hearty tomato sauce. The noodles are typically already coated with sauce when it arrives at the table, so it only needs to be mixed if you want even more sauce in each bite. While the meat sauce offers more flavor in every bite thanks to the seasoned meat, the marinara option should not be overlooked.

The plain marinara sauce manages to tone down the taste of the meatballs and would be appreciated by those who feel overwhelmed if there is too much flavor in their dish. The meal is pretty filling, but depending on how hungry you are, you may finish the dish in one sitting.


Spaghetti and meat sauce

Gala Didebashvili/Getty Images

These selections were made based on personal experiences, feedback from friends who have also tried the dishes, and online reviews. Personal experiences served as the driving force behind the selections, however, it was important to incorporate the opinions of others while determining the best dishes. The factors that were used to determine the best dishes were taste, noodle to sauce ratio, and portion size. Although price is an important factor when it comes to dining out, it was not included when selecting these dishes. With the ever changing economy, the price of certain meals may seem cheap or overly expensive depending on a person’s financial situation.

While making these selections, focusing on the dish itself was determined to be the best option. When choosing the best dishes, I compiled a list of some of the most popular dishes at Olive Garden and then narrowed down the options based on taste, quality, and how full the meal left patrons.

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