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Our Favorite Menu Items to Order from Olive Garden

A helpful guide on what to order from this classic Italian restaurant.

Olive Garden is a family favorite for delicious Italian-style comfort food. With the tagline, “We’re all family here,” Americans would agree this is an ideal spot to gather for great food and fun times with loved ones. In fact, Olive Garden is regularly in the top 20 most popular chain restaurants in the US.

olive garden entrance

From seafood to vegetarian options to classic Italian dishes, it can be challenging to decide what to order at Olive Garden. Rest assured, however, there is a dish to suit every taste preference (including for picky eaters). Olive Garden has tasty deals and hearty portions to fill your belly, whether you come for lunch or dinner. 

Although some would clarify that Olive Garden is not authentic Italian food, satisfied customers know the most important thing: the food is delicious. 

Olive Garden is continually adding to its menu, creating new twists on old classics, and at the same time maintaining crowd favorites like their signature breadsticks, house salad, and the Tour of Italy sampler. 

We’ve done plenty of taste testing and have details about eleven of the best Olive Garden menu items listed below. 

Tour of Italy

The Tour of Italy features the trifecta of Olive Garden classics: Chicken Parmigiana, Lasagna Classico, and the Signature Fettuccine Alfredo.

When you’re in the mood for variety, order this dish to get three distinct tastes. Of course, you’ll also be full to the max with these generous portion sizes.  

Chicken Parmigiana is made by lightly frying a parmesan breaded chicken breast. For the Fettuccine Alfredo, chefs make the sauce fresh throughout the day with a combination of parmesan cheese, heavy cream, and garlic and combine it with thick fettuccine noodles. 

Finally, Lasagna Classico is the quintessential Italian entree with layers of noodles, creamy cheeses, and rich meat sauce.


Shrimp Alfredo

If you enjoy seafood, then the Shrimp Alfredo will hit the spot. The flavorful shrimp is served with fettuccine noodles and topped with Olive Garden’s signature fresh Alfredo sauce. Fettuccine means “small ribbons” in Italian. This pasta is long like spaghetti, but it’s wider, so you get a hearty bite with each forkful. 

The buttery and creamy Alfredo sauce are both satisfying and light at the same time. If you’re looking for a dish that will fill you up, but won’t make you feel heavy, then you should try the Shrimp Alfredo. 


Breadsticks

When I think about eating at Olive Garden, the breadsticks are the first food item that springs to my mind. My mouth starts to water the second I picture these buttery, golden breadsticks. 

They have the slightest crunch on the outside with soft, melt-in-your-mouth bread inside. Rumor has it that Olive Garden has dedicated employees back in the kitchen whose sole responsibility is providing a continuous quantity of warm breadsticks. 

Olive Garden generously includes breadsticks with every meal, and you can get them in an endless supply with the soup and salad specials. If you’re ordering to-go, you can add a 1/2 dozen or a dozen breadsticks to your order. Breadsticks come both baked and unbaked, with instructions for preparing at home. 


Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara

Bacon makes everything taste better, don’t you agree? If you consider yourself a bacon fanatic, rest assured that Olive Garden has a delicious dish to help you get your bacon fix. The term carbonara refers to a specific type of pasta sauce from Rome. 

The Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara combines sautéed chicken, shrimp, and spaghetti with bacon and red peppers. The chicken breast is lightly seasoned, which adds to the variety of flavors and textures in this dish. All the ingredients are tossed together in a decadent cream sauce. And did I mention the bacon?


Zeppoli

For melt in your mouth goodness, try some Zeppoli with chocolate sauce. You may not have heard the term zeppeli or zeppole before, but these warm fried doughnuts are heaven-sent goodness. If you think doughnuts are only for breakfast, this dish will change your mind forever.

Olive Garden makes their Zeppoli by deep-frying dough and then tossing the fresh donuts with powdered sugar. Then, they’re brought to your table with dipping sauce while still warm. 

You can choose from the raspberry sauce or chocolate sauce, and that’s a hard decision to make because they are both fantastic. If you want the full breakfast for dessert effect, be sure to add a cappuccino or espresso beverage.


Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana is a flavorful and filling traditional Italian dish; it’s definitely one of my favorites. If you’re looking for vegetarian main dishes, the Eggplant Parmigiana hits the mark. 

Although eggplant is not one of the most popular vegetables in American cuisine, eggplant is a nutrient-dense food with Vitamin C and K, potassium, folate, and manganese.

This classic southern Italian dish starts with thinly sliced pieces of fresh eggplant. Next, the eggplant slices are hand-breaded and lightly fried. 

The parmigiana is baked after layering fried eggplant, marinara sauce, and mozzarella cheese, which allows all the flavors to melt together. Finally, Olive Garden serves up this flavorful vegetarian entree with a simple side of spaghetti. 


Lasagna Fritta

While you’re unlikely to find a fried lasagna in a traditional Italian kitchen, Olive Garden’s Lasagna Fritta is a delicious spin on one of the most beloved Italian dishes. This tasty entree consists of lightly fried parmesan-breaded lasagna noodles topped with parmesan cheese and meat sauce and served on creamy alfredo sauce. 

Olive Garden makes its meat sauce with Italian sausage and pan-seared beef, which provide excellent flavor to the tomatoes, herbs, and veggies. The Lasagna Fritta has a great lasagna’s essential ingredients but changes the presentation and adds some extra tastes and textures with fried noodles and smooth alfredo sauce.


Grilled Chicken Piadina

Piadinas are a new offering from Olive Garden inspired by an authentic Italian street food item. The Grilled Chicken Piadina contains chicken, fresh spinach, a savory cheese sauce, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil. The fillings are wrapped in a flaky crust and served with a side of marinara sauce. 

In some ways, you could compare this to a grilled panini or quesadilla, only with fresh Italian flavors. When I’m looking for a lighter dish or want something other than pasta, the piadina hits the spot. It’s especially great for lunch. You can also try out the grilled vegetable option if you’re looking for another meatless option at Olive Garden.


Cheese Ravioli

When you’re looking for crowd-pleasers, Cheese Ravioli is a win for kids and adults. This classic dish relies on quality ingredients to provide smooth, creamy comfort food. 

A blend of rich Italian cheeses fills the ravioli pasta. If you want a vegetarian entree, you can order this dish with a homemade marinara sauce. Or, you can choose the sausage and beef-based meat sauce. 

The final meal comes with a generous helping of ravioli and sauce topped with smooth, melted mozzarella cheese. And of course, the meal is made complete with a House Salad and breadsticks.


House Salad

Olive Garden’s famous House Salad is a fan favorite. Served family-style in a large bowl and accompanied with fresh breadsticks, the house salad is perfect as a standalone meal or before your entree. 

This flavorful salad is made with crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, red onions, black olives, and buttery croutons. It’s all finished with Olive Garden’s signature Italian salad dressing. 

Although Italian cuisine is typically synonymous with “carb-overload,” the House Salad provides a good counterbalance, allowing you to get some fresh veggies into your diet. If you’re eating out for lunch, you can enjoy the special soup, breadstick, and salad combo.


Cookie Butter Cake

A delicious meal is incomplete without a delectable sweet treat. While Olive Garden has various dessert options to choose from, the Cookie Butter Cake is one of a kind. The combination of cookie butter, vanilla cake, and warm caramel will end your dining experience on a high note. 

Have you heard about the cookie butter trend? Well, this sweet treat starts by blending ground-up speculoos cookies (a traditional spiced European biscuit) with powdered sugar and vegetable oil. Olive Garden combines two layers of vanilla cake with crumbled cookies, creamy sweet butter and finishes with a warm caramel drizzle in this magnificent cake.


Final Thoughts

We’ve only touched on some of the excellent items to order from the extensive Olive Garden menu. Don’t forget about the delicious beverages, from cocktails and wine to espressos and cappuccinos. Olive Garden has all your favorites. 

If you have dietary restrictions, be sure to check out the menu for gluten-free and vegetarian options, as well as keep an eye on sodium content and calories. 

Whether you’re searching for a great takeout option or trying to find a spot for an intimate date or large group gathering, Olive Garden is a go-to for guaranteed great food and experience.

Try the items from our list, or let us know in the comments some of your favorites that we didn’t mention here!

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Written by Rocco Smith

Rocco is from Sanibel Island, Florida, and a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor’s in Editing, Writing, and Media. With seven years’ experience in the restaurant industry as a cook, server, bartender, and more, he is deeply passionate about intertwining his fondness for food with his love of language.