8 Things at Olive Garden That Real Italians Would Never Do
Those breadsticks? Not exactly legit, sorry to say.
Olive Garden: Chicken Alfredo
With dozens of mix-and-match pasta possibilities (or, should we say, pastabilities), it's the big, creamy bowl of Olive Garden's Chicken Alfredo that continues to top the restaurant's list of most-popular entrees. Sliced grilled chicken is served over tender fettuccine pasta and doused in OG's signature homemade Alfredo sauce, which is made from scratch daily. We think that's exactly what the restaurant's iconic breadsticks are for — mopping up all that rich cream sauce.
By Allison Underhill
Ah, Olive Garden. Home of deep-fried lasagna, never-ending pasta, and unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks. This cult-favorite chain is known for its Italian-inspired cuisine, but how authentic is it really? Read on to find out the MAJOR differences between Olive Garden and an authentic Italian eatery.
1. "Italian" Dressing
Let’s start with the salad. OG is known for its house salad, aka the bottomless bowl of greens that is set on the table at the start of each meal. It’s topped with Olive Garden’s signature Italian dressing, and while "Italian" might be in the name, it is 100 percent NOT authentic. Olive Garden’s Italian dressing is packed with tons of ingredients, including a variety of oils, vinegar, eggs, salt, cheese and garlic. In Italy, however, most salads are relatively simple and topped with just salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.
2. Fluffy Breadsticks
Olive Garden’s breadsticks are iconic. We’re not knocking them. Those warm and fluffy sticks of dough are what dreams are made of. Unfortunately, despite their deliciousness, these breadsticks are not Italian. Real Italian breadsticks, called "grissini," are longer, skinnier and hard enough to snap in half.
3. Fettuccini Alfredo
Just… no. An Italian would NEVER be caught eating a bowl of Fettuccini Alfredo. This Olive Garden menu item was created by Americans for Americans. The closest authentic Italian dish to Fettuccini Alfredo is Pasta in Bianco (white pasta). This meal consists of pasta mixed with butter, olive oil and cheese, and it’s usually served as a comfort food to children with upset tummies and pregnant women experiencing morning sickness.
4. Dollops of Sauce
You know when your pasta arrives with a dollop of sauce on top that hasn’t been mixed in yet? Turns out, that little topper of marinara or Alfredo sauce should have been mixed in before the plate arrives. At an authentic Italian restaurant, the chef will not only toss your pasta with the sauce, but he or she will also splash of some leftover pasta water on top, which ensures that each piece of pasta will be perfectly coated in sauce.
5. Parmesan Cheese Overload
Don’t get us wrong — pasta topped with Parmesan cheese is AMAZING. We know firsthand that it’s nearly impossible to say "stop" as the Olive Garden server grates fresh cheese over your meal. However, Italians will sometimes pass on the Parm altogether, as it actually masks the flavor of the pasta. Instead of Parmesan, Italians are known to sprinkle a lil Pecorino Romano cheese on their pasta for a touch of salty goodness.
6. Giant Meatballs
Meatballs are thought to have originated in a number of places, including Sweden, Turkey and, of course, Italy. And while meatballs are a staple in Italian cooking, the ones seen at Olive Garden are waaaay off. Authentic Italian meatballs are typically small and served on their own — instead of on a bed of pasta. The monstrous meatballs at Olive Garden have, well, too much meat.
7. Chicken Served with Pasta
It may not sound like a huge faux pas, but chicken served within a pasta dish is practically unheard of in Italy. Olive Garden’s Chicken Carbonara and Chicken Scampi break one of the Golden Rules of Italian food: Thou shall only eat chicken in the second course. The reason why? Italians stagger how they eat. First comes salad, then pasta or risotto, then meat or fish. This keeps the palette clean and the flavors and textures separate.
8. Beverages Other Than Water or Wine
Coca-Cola? Never heard of her. Olive Garden boasts a wide selection of beverages on its menu, from beer and cocktails to smoothies and lemonade. But Italians would *probably* never sip on anything other than water or wine during dinner. Italian chefs put loads of time and consideration into choosing top-notch ingredients for their dishes, so you don’t want to overpower those flavors with a fizzy drink. Italians stick to bottled water or a wine that complements the food.