- Insider spoke with current and former Olive Garden employees to find out the best and worst things to order at the Italian chain restaurant.
- The chicken marsala is a staff and customer favourite, and the Tour of Italy plate is a great deal.
- Watermelon margaritas and lasagna frittas are also popular menu items.
- On the other hand, employees said you can skip the chicken Alfredo pizza and the shrimp Alfredo pasta.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The restaurant is known for its warm breadsticks, decadent pasta dishes, and large portions. To find out which menu options are a slam dunk and which customers should avoid, Insider spoke to people who’ve worked there.
Here are the best and worst things to order at Olive Garden, according to current and former employees.
Editor’s Note: Some menu items may no longer be available.
Order the lasagna fritta for a shareable and satisfying starter.
“This is the best appetizer and a favourite of guests,” Spain said. “The portion size is perfect for sharing with family, but it doesn’t leave you too full for the next courses.”
This appetizer consists of parmesan-breaded fried lasagna topped with marinara sauce and even more parmesan cheese. You can also ask to add creamy Alfredo sauce for dipping.
One employee raved about the stuffed chicken marsala.
Olive Garden’s chicken marsala is made by pan-frying chicken cutlets and serving them in a marsala wine sauce with mushrooms and herbs.
Spain said that both staff and customers love this dish.
“My personal favourite entrée is the stuffed chicken marsala. It’s such a cohesive dish and all of its components work together really well,” she told Insider.
The watermelon margarita can be refreshing and well-portioned.
If you’re looking for a cocktail that strikes the ideal balance between light and flavorful, the watermelon margarita might be it.
“The watermelon margarita is one of the most popular drinks. It’s fresh and summery, and the company uses it in their $US5 cocktail promotion, so it’s a perfect size,” Spain said.
The chicken carbonara is pure comfort food.
Kelsey Battle, a college student and server at Olive Garden, told Insider that he loves the chicken carbonara for its great seasoning and flavour.
“This dish is rich and delicious. The sauce is cooked and seasoned, and then the whole thing is tossed over a fire,” Battle said. “It will always leave you satisfied.”
Diners can also opt for the chicken and shrimp carbonara, which has even more protein.
The Tour of Italy platter is the “best value on the menu,” said one employee.
If you have a large appetite, Olive Garden’s Tour of Italy menu option will give you plenty of food without emptying your wallet.
The dish includes a serving of chicken parmigiana, lasagna classico, and the restaurant’s signature fettuccine Alfredo.
“If you get all three items on the Tour of Italy separately, you’d pay about $US30. If you go for the Tour, you’ll only pay about $US19,” Battle told Insider. “It’s the best value on the menu.”
On the other hand, one employee said, the chicken Alfredo pizza is often not a hit with guests.
Diners might want to skip Olive Garden’s chicken Alfredo pizza.
“I’d avoid the chicken Alfredo pizza. This item is often returned,” said Battle. “The bread isn’t very good and the pizza is often burned.”
The shrimp Alfredo isn’t really a great value since you can replicate it for less.
“One of the worst values on the menu is the shrimp Alfredo. You’ll pay $US18 for the dish when you can create your own shrimp pasta with cheese sauce for less,” Battle told Insider.
One former employee said the seafood-stuffed mushrooms are often sent back to the kitchen.
Olive Garden’s seafood-stuffed mushrooms are packed with clams, Italian cheeses, and herbed breadcrumbs before being baked.
Spain advised steering clear of this dish, which she said is sometimes not served hot enough.
“They are almost always sent back for being cold in the middle and they sit in a puddle of grease that causes them to get soggy and rubbery,” she said.
The herb and salmon entrée isn’t the best seafood option on the menu.
Spain told Insider that customers should reconsider ordering the herb-salmon entrée, which she said is made with frozen fish.
“There’s a reason Olive Garden is better known for their pasta than their seafood,” she said. “The salmon comes in frozen and, in my opinion, this dish is only on the menu to add some diversity.”
If you’re craving seafood, a better option may be the restaurant’s seafood Alfredo pasta dish.
The dolcini desserts aren’t the best value, according to a former employee.
The dolcini at Olive Garden are small bowls filled with cake, mousse, pastry cream, and berries.
You can order dolcini in different flavours, but Spain said that the dessert isn’t made to order and is a poor value for your money.
“The worst dessert to order is the dolcini. They’re always frozen and overpriced for the two spoonfuls you get,” she told Insider. “Plus all the flavours pretty much taste the same.”
Representatives for Olive Garden didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.
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