Olive Garden is arguably one of the greatest Italian family restaurants. I’m hungry just thinking about their cheese ravioli and braised beef Bolognese. And of course, their unlimited salad and breadsticks, the generous combo they’re known for. Holy yum.
Besides the obvious delicious food, what else do you really know about Olive Garden? Anything? We’re about to tell you.
Here are some fun facts you might not know about this popular Italian chain:
Sales started off strong and never stopped.
The first Olive Garden debuted in 1982 in Orlando, Florida and was immediately successful. By 1989, the restaurant had grown to 145 locations. The unique part about it was that they actually intended to become a chain, unlike most chain restaurants. They fulfilled their wish: They’re now the largest Italian-themed full-service chain restaurant in America (only second to Carrabba’s Italian Grill).
Customers love these popular menu items.
The classic Chicken Alfredo is one of the most popular dishes at Olive Garden, according to an employee who spoke with PopSugar. Shrimp scampi is a close second—and is actually one of the healthier menu options, coming in at just 500 calories (who knew?). Fettuccine reigns over any other pasta option, and chicken is the number-one topping for pastas. Did we say we were hungry before?
They’re more Italian than you might think.
While I’m personally very pro Olive Garden, I know plenty of people who roll their eyes and think there are more authentic Italian joints. But Olive Garden actually has a culinary institute in Tuscany, Italy. Each year, around 200 Olive Garden managers and team members get to visit to learn as much as they can about Italian cuisine and culture. They also get to meet and learn from the Olive Garden’s overseas partners. Additionally, the rustic stone walls of the restaurant’s interiors and exteriors are modeled after a farmhouse in Chianti!
You can buy their salad dressing.
If you love their signature dressings, good news: They’re offered at places like Sam’s Club, Walmart, certain grocery stores, and on Amazon. You can also just ask your waiter next time you’re eating at Olive Garden, and they’ll sell you a bottle.
The soup is homemade, every day.
While most people tend to stray towards the carb-loaded dishes at Olive Garden, they should really start diving into their soups. Every one of these gems—Pasta e Fagioli, Chicken & Gnocchi, Zuppa Toscana, and Minestrone—are made from scratch every single morning. And they use only the freshest, most wholesome ingredients.
Whether it’s a birthday party or a wedding, Olive Garden is happy to cater any private party. They offer all the goods—chicken parmigiana, lasagna, breadstick sandwiches…according to an employee, they even offer a breadstick bouquet if you’re a breadstick-loving bride! For their expansive catering options, visit their website.
They’re extremely accommodating to any diet.
Olive Garden prides itself on working with their diners to accommodate any allergy or dietary need the person might have. Need gluten-free pasta? Check. Want the chicken parm grilled instead of fried? Done. That way, everyone can enjoy the deliciousness, no matter what type of restrictions they might have.
Who’s off to Olive Garden now? *Hand shoots up* Tell us: What’s your favorite dish at Olive Garden?