Olive Garden is best known for its soft, buttery breadsticks.
Now, the brand its using the signature item to make sandwiches.
The new chicken Parmesan and Italian meatball sandwiches will debut on the menu in June, and Olive Garden invited us to try the sandwiches early.
We’ll start with our favourite of the two, which was the chicken Parmesan sandwich. It features breaded chicken covered in melted Parmesan cheese and marinara sauce between two buns and is served with a side of fries.
The chicken used on the sandwich is the same used in the signature pasta dish.
Warning: the sandwich is extremely messy.
Like the breadsticks, the buns are slathered in butter and garlic salt that stick to your fingers while you’re eating.
The marinara and melted cheese spill out the sides of the buns, making it very difficult to imagine eating this sandwich on the go.
The first bite was really tasty. It is saliter than the typical chicken parmesan sandwich, probably because of the garlic salt topping the bread.
The buns are slightly wider than the traditional breadsticks, but otherwise look and taste very similar.
Here’s a breadstick (top) next to a sandwich bun (bottom).
We are big fans of Olive Garden breadsticks and typically eat them without any sauces when we order them as an appetizer.
But the taste of the bread gets somewhat lost when combined with the chicken, cheese and sauce.
Our testers didn’t like the meatball sandwich as much as the chicken Parmesan.
This sandwich, which consists of Olive Garden’s spaghetti meatballs with marinara and alfredo sauces between two buns, felt too heavy for a meal in the middle of the day.
The bottom bun also got a little soggy from the sauce, which didn’t happen with the chicken Parmesan sandwich.
We gave up on eating it with our hands as it fell apart, instead opting for a fork and knife.
Olive Garden has been making menu changes and redesigning restaurants in a bid to attract new customers during an overall slump in the casual dining sector.
As part of its turnaround, the company is trying to speed up the time it takes for new menu items to hit the market.
Typically, it takes Olive Garden about 10 months to conceive and test new items before they are made available on menus.
The breadstick sandwiches, by comparison, took just four months to develop. An employee came up with the idea in February during a retreat in Italy and four months later, the sandwiches are rolling out nationally.
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