What is the Olive Garden?
In 1996, Massachusetts-based Darden Restaurants Inc. announced that it was buying Italian-themed casual dining restaurant company Olive Garden from American Capital.
The newly formed company gave the eatery’s name a more Italian twist to add flair to a, particularly dreary day.
Thus, the new “Olive Garden,” which is Italian for “hollow” or “alley,” was born. At the time, Olive Garden was a business unto itself with five restaurants in the northeastern region.
However, Darden eventually introduced the brand to the Southeast and the West Coast. In 1999, Darden doubled its existing system-wide count of Olive Garden restaurants to 138.
The History of Olive Garden
More than 30 years ago, just like its cousins McDonald’s and Long John Silver’s, Olive Garden was launched on the mantra of ‘anything you can eat.’
Olive Garden quickly made its way to the top of the fast-food restaurant industry with a team of talented people and a huge fan base (due to its unlimited Italian dishes).
The original Olive Garden restaurant opened in 1984 as a brand of the Darden Restaurants Inc.
The menu consisted of fresh-made homemade pasta, hand-tossed salads, and unlimited breadsticks and salad dressings.
Today, Darden is a fast-growing company with more than 470 restaurants in the U.S.
In 1987, a group of doctors at Tufts Medical Center began to offer their patients unlimited breadsticks and salad for free when dining at the original Olive Garden.
Olive Garden Menu Prices for 2021
Create a Sampler Italiano (Three Choices) $11.49
Create a Sampler Italiano (Two Choices) $9.49
Shrimp Scampi Fritta (classic or spicy) $8.99
Stuffed Mushrooms $7.49
Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta $8.49
Lasagna Fritta $8.79
Calamari (classic or spicy) $9.49
Grilled Chicken Flatbread $8.79
Caprese Flatbread $6.99
Dipping Sauces $3.49
Zuppa Toscana $5.49
Pasta e Fagioli $5.49
Chicken & Gnocchi $5.49
Our Famous House Salad $5.99
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad $9.99
Antipasti Italian Meats & Cheese $2.99
Roasted Tomato Caprese $2.99
Lunch - Monday to Friday until 4 PM
Pasta e Fagioli Chicken & Gnocchi Minestrone Zuppa Toscana Signature Salad Toppings Mini Pasta Bowls Italian Small Plates
Sandwich & Flatbread Combinations
Grilled Chicken Flatbread $9.29
Caprese Flatbread $7.99
Italiano Burger $9.99
Smashed Chicken Meatball Sandwich $9.99
Chicken parmigiana Sandwich (Half) $7.49
Chicken parmigiana Sandwich (Whole $9.99
Italian Meatball Sandwich (Half) $6.99
Italian Meatball Sandwich (Whole) $9.49
Fettuccine Alfredo $8.99
Chicken Alfredo $11.79
Seafood Alfredo $12.79
Chicken Scampi $11.79
Eggplant Parmigiana $9.49
Lasagna Classico $9.99
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce $8.49
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (With meatballs or Italian sausage) $10.49
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (With chicken meatballs) $11.49
Chicken Parmigiana $10.99
Cheese Ravioli $8.99
Five Cheese Ziti al Forno $8.99
Lighter Italian Fare
Garden Primavera (New!) $8.99
Garden Primavera (New!) - Add grilled chicken $12.29
Garden Primavera (New!) - Add grilled shrimp $12.79
Ravioli di Portobello $9.79
Lasagna Primavera with Grilled Chicken $10.99
Garlic Rosemary Chicken $10.79
Chicken Parmigiana $14.99
Eggplant Parmigiana $12.79
Lasagna Classico $13.79
Fettuccine Alfredo $12.79
Ravioli di Portobello $12.99
Tour of Italy $16.99
Cheese Ravioli $11.99
Five Cheese Ziti al Forno $11.99
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce $10.99
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (With meatballs or Italian sausage) $13.49
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (With chicken meatballs) $14.49
Cucina Mia with Meatballs $11.99
Cucina Mia with Italian Sausage $11.99
Cucina Mia with Chicken Meatballs $12.99
Cucina Mia with Grilled Chicken $12.49
Cucina Mia with Sautéed Shrimp $13.99
Grilled Chicken Toscano $14.49
Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara $17.79
Chicken Alfredo $14.79
Chicken Scampi $14.99
Stuffed Chicken Marsala $16.49
Chicken Marsala $15.99
Smoked Mozzarella Chicken $13.99
Steak Toscano (12 oz.) $19.99
Braise Beef & Tortelloni $14.99
Parmesan Crusted Filet $19.99
Steak Gorgonzola-Alfredo $15.99
Fish & Seafood
Pappardelle Pescatore $16.99
Seafood Alfredo $15.99
Baked Parmesan Shrimp $14.99
Salmon Bruschetta $18.99
Lighter Italian Fare
Chicken Abruzzi $15.49
Herb-Grilled Salmon $16.99
Center Cut Filet Mignon $18.99
Baked Tilapia with Shrimp $15.99
Garlic Rosemary Chicken $13.99
Lasagna Primavera with Grilled Chicken $12.79
Bellini Peach-Raspberry Iced Tea $2.89
Fresh Brewed Iced Tea $2.59
Raspberry Lemonade $2.89
Fountain Drinks $2.59
San Pellegrino (half-litter) $2.00
San Pellegrino (one litter) $3.00
Acqua Panna (half-litter) $2.00
Acqua Panna (one litter) $3.00
Lemon Cream Cake $6.39
Black Tie Mousse Cake $6.99
Chocolate Mousse Cake $4.99
White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake $6.49
Dolcini-Mini Desserts -(Three Choices) $6.99
Dolcini-Mini Desserts -(Each) $2.79
Kids Meals (For Children Under 12)
Kids' entrees include choice of drink and side. $5.69
Serve delicious food from Olive Garden at your next special occasion or event! Bruschetta $14.49
Toasted Beef & Pork Ravioli $23.99
Fried Mozzarella $22.49
Stuffed Mushrooms (prepared with clams) $18.49
Crispy Risotto Bites $22.99
Chicken Meatballs $18.99
Our Famous Jumbo House Salad $17.49
Jumbo Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad $25.99
Antipasti Italian Meats & Cheese $5.99
Roasted Tomato Caprese $5.99
Half Gallon (serves 6) $12.79
Gallon (serves 12) $21.29
Half Dozen $2.99
Fettuccine Alfredo $29.99
Cheese Ravioli with Marinara or Meat Sauce $30.99
Spaghetti with Marinara $24.99
Spaghetti with Marinara with meatballs or Italian sausage $34.99
Spaghetti with Marinara with chicken meatballs $39.99
Gluten-Free Rotini with Marinara or Primavera $28.99
Gluten-Free Rotini with Marinara or Primavera with grilled chicken $42.99
Five Cheese Ziti al Forno $28.99
Ravioli di Portobello $33.99
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce with meatballs or Italian sausage $37.99
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce with chicken meatballs $42.99
Lasagna Classico (serves 6 to 8) $32.99
Lasagna Classico (serves 10 to 12) $42.99
Chicken, Beef & Seafood (serves 4 to 6)
Chicken Alfredo $44.99
Chicken Parmigiana $35.99
Chicken Scampi with Angel Hair $35.99
Chicken Marsala with Roasted Potatoes $42.99
Seafood Alfredo $48.99
Braised Beef & Tortelloni $43.99
Smoked Mozzarella Chicken $39.99
Garlic Rosemary Chicken with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes or Broccoli $42.99
Italian Meatballs (dozen) $14.99
Chicken Meatballs (dozen) $18.99
Italian Sausage (dozen) $14.99
Grilled Chicken Breasts (6 sliced) $18.99
Five Cheese Marinara $4.69
Meat Sauce $4.79
Black Tie Mousse Cake (half) $22.49
Black Tie Mousse Cake (whole) $39.99
Tiramisu (half) $22.49
Tiramisu (whole) $39.99
Lemon Cream Cake (half) $22.49
Lemon Cream Cake (whole) $39.99
White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake (half) $22.49
White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake (whole) $39.99
Dolcini (Assortment of 25 mini desserts) $39.99
Bellini-Peach Raspberry Iced Tea $7.39
Fresh Brewed Iced Tea $4.69
Raspberry Lemonade $6.69
Catering Meal Combinations
Soup, Salad & Breadsticks Combination $67.50
Per person $6.75
Chicken Parmigiana Combination $95.00
Per person $9.50
Lasagna Combination $100.00
Per person $10.00
Garlic Rosemary Chicken Combination $110.00
Per person $11.00
The Italian eatery is a crowd-pleaser with so many options that it’s the perfect spot to go to celebrate many events.
Eat at Olive Garden to celebrate weddings, graduations, birthdays, engagements, anniversaries, and even throw a surprise birthday bash.
The hottest nights to dine include Wednesdays through Fridays between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., when kids eat free with the purchase of one adult entree.
Wednesdays are often the cheapest nights to dine, although crowds are generally light, particularly at the chain’s more popular locations.
Most other times, tables can get booked quickly, as tables often sit open for more than two hours. As a result, You’d have to make a reservation if you want a table.
Dressing for the Occasion
The quality and taste of your clothes are most important. However, when shopping, remember: Food.
Men don’t need to dress as women. Don’t buy a lot of ruffles, lace, and taffeta. You don’t need a bustle in your dress. Wear clothes you can wear for a long time.
Accessories: Don’t buy big heavy bags. Big, heavy bags can make you walk slower, and then you’ll get in a car and drive. Likewise, don’t use a purse that is too small.
Instead, look for a handbag that is small enough to fit in your hand. Then, take your purse off your shoulder and cross your arms.
What to Order From the Menu
The menu is divided into several sections — appetizers, salads, entrees, and, of course, desserts. Most people order two or three entrees, one of which is typically the pasta dish, to share.
There are also four different drink choices. All except the wine are served on the housemade “palagonite” clear glassware.
To start, most guests choose the never-ending lasagna or an antipasto salad. Pasta dishes are made from many ingredients, including meat, vegetables, and more — all carefully cooked and seasoned to perfection.
Many varieties of pasta are available, including classic Italian, creamy Italian, penne ala vodka, and lasagna.
Salads offer an array of options, including roasted or Greek, with a little something for everyone.
Pasta, Pizza, and Other Italian Dishes
Diners and pizza lovers know that all Italian restaurants serve pasta, pizza, and all-you-can-eat salads—but how exactly do you know which Italian restaurant has the best pizza?
Soups and Salads
The Pasta Inn ($7.99) Fresh tossed Italian salad tossed with sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, onion, basil, Parmesan, and olive oil. (Makes four servings.)
Mountain Pasta Salad ($8.99) Freshly made Tuscan mixed greens tossed with Tuscan style chicken and heirloom tomatoes, tossed with a lemon vinaigrette and topped with diced ham. (Makes four servings.)
House Pasta Salad ($8.99) Freshly made San Marzano tomato basil herb salad tossed with parmesan chicken, pine nuts, roasted red peppers, garlic, and olive oil. (Makes four servings.)
Wine Pairing: Chef’sChoice Riserva Firenze Pinot Grigio ($11.99) Classic Italian blend with bright red cherry and raspberry notes, spiced earth and citrus flavors, and subtle floral notes.
Stuffed Crust Pizza (1/4 menu, $10.99)
Stuffed Mushrooms (1/4 menu, $9.99)
Stuffed Pepperoni (1/4 menu, $9.99)
Pizza Roll (1/4 menu, $6.99)
Bread Sticks (1/4 menu, $2.49)
Pizza Dice (1/4 menu, $1.99)
Country Fried Steak (1/6 menu, $7.99)
Noodle Bowl (1/6 menu, $9.99)
Stuffed Chicken Alfredo (1/6 menu, $11.99)
Chicken Pot Pie (1/6 menu, $9.99)
Cheese Sticks (1/6 menu, $3.99)
Olive Garden’s new menu is not surprising. From what I read of the press release, I expected something more like the old menu, with the iconic breadsticks front and center.
But, since I was already shopping for a new kitchen, I decided to do it and not wait around for the announcement.
I ordered the Eggplant Parmigiana and found it good. It wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t bad. I couldn’t find any flaws that I couldn’t live with.
I would go back again, but only after finding the answer to this question: Where is the breadstick menu? I hope Olive Garden will answer that soon. If they don’t, feel free to let me know where they can find it.
As a side note, it seems that Olive Garden’s version of the Eggplant Parmigiana has non-traditional mashed potatoes.