Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chains >
Dec 10, 2012 11:32 AM

Olive Garden comes in last - yet again

"Worst: Olive Garden
Sure, Italian food can be rich and starchy, but a true Italian doesn't let that stop him from looking svelte in his Dolce & Gabbana suit. The U.S. obesity rate is more than three times that of Italy's. And why is that? Perhaps because of restaurants like Olive Garden, which combine the richness of Italian food with oversized American portions. Fully half of the dinner options on the Classic Pastas menu exceed 1,000 calories. Bottomless portions of carb-heavy breadsticks and dressing-soaked salads don't help.

Survival Strategy: Come here for lunch, when the portions are smaller, and skip the bread and the salad."

Hmm - aren't bread sticks & salads typically reported as the best part of OG?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't consider Italian food 'rich' and I don't consider OG an Italian restaurant. The issue with the obesity rate is fairly simple to understand, calories in vs calories out. It's all about self wanting to do something whether it be to eat sensibility or not.

    1. OK, I understand your comments, but for an inexpensive lunch, soup and salad is good deal.

      If you treat your server well, she/he will drdege the bottom of the soup pot on your second serving. That is the good stuff.

      For those of us who are pinching pennies, that is a good deal.

      1. Maybe we should make clear that this is from Fitbie, which describes itself as a "diet and fitness" site from MSN. If you're focused on diet and fitness, Olive Garden may well be the worst of the Italian-American chain restaurants... no argument from me there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: drongo

          I think Bucco di Beppo that sells themselves as serving "family sized" portions could arguably be worse in the diet and fitness realm. Not because the food is bad or generically unhealthy, but because people end up eating far more than an indivudual portion. However, if on their nutrition label they give the nutrition information for their chicken parmesean and divide it by 4 (indicating that one plate is meant for 4), then that skews the case for the many customers who end up splitting it between 2 or 3 (not to mention how much total food is consumed in one sitting). Or if it's eaten by one person alone.

          Cheesecake Factory is one of the worst offenders in the 'diet and fitness' crowd (as seen in the Family Restaurant category) primarily for the giant size of the portions. Assuming they give some basic research, I'll let them slide that Olive Garden is the worst on paper. But I'm suspicious on the reality of orders there versus that happens at Bucco di Beppo (or similar family style chains).

        2. Given that this list is primarily focused on calories and best healthy options - let it be known that it also list for "best" options (amongst chains) as Domino's for best pizza and Red Lobster for best seafood. So having better healthy options and fitting in with other CH trends, doesn't necessarily go together.

          That being said, I suspect that Red Lobster's competition (chains like Captain D's, Long John Silver's) wasn't terribly stiff. Quality or not, they don't fry everything.

          1. Olive Garden is, for the most part, straight-up Americanized Italian food. Take a look at the appetizer menu: all but one item is deep-fried or baked in a butter crust. The majority of entrees feature the cheese/butter/garlic trifecta that makes anything edible. It's heavy, heavy food, and surprisingly expensive for a chain. I'm not a big fan.

            I went last night for a birthday party, and had a truly bizarre evening. Our party was seated at a long table near the wine service station, so the servers were constantly ducking and squeezing around each other. Food was spilled on people several times, iced tea poured on the table, and on two occasions, entire trays of filled glasses went flying, smashing glass on the floor next to us, sending margaritas (yes, margaritas) spraying everywhere as servers ran into each other.

            I ordered just the salad and breadsticks, and was never given a salad refill despite reminder after reminder; my server kept looking baffled at the idea of eating salad: "You want salad? Like... just the salad?" Yeah, it's on the menu, right there. At one point, my server started taking my bowl and fork away midway through the meal; I reminded them that I was literally using it at that moment to eat my dinner, and they were very confused at the idea. As desert was served, the servers took everyone's drink glasses away and dropped off the check, then vanished -- no coffee, no water, nothing was left. Couldn't wait to get out of there.