Food Review: Olive Garden’s New “Italiano Burger”

When you're here, you're family!

“When you’re here, you’re family!”

Olive Garden is widely known for offering affordable Italian food in their family friendly chain-style restaurants. They have recently, however, made an effort to push the limits of traditional Italian food by adding a burger to their pasta dominated menu. The new Italiano Burger features a beef hamburger patty, crispy Italian prosciutto (an Italian ham), fresh mozzarella cheese, arugula, marinated tomatoes, and a garlic aioli spread. To complete the dish, Olive Garden has also released their new parmesan garlic fries. The burger is currently in a limited release and is only offered during lunch hours (generally 11:00 am to 4:00 pm Monday-Friday). Like most items at Olive Garden, the Italiano Burger entitles you to all the soup, salad and breadsticks you can shove down your gullet before they kick you out! Depending on the chain you visit, the meal will likely set you back between $9.99 and $10.99.

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My actual burger.

I was skeptical of the burger at first, mainly because of the strong brand that the Olive Garden has built over the years. They have spent millions of dollars trying to convince Americans that they serve quality Italian food, yet here they are, seemingly selling out by adding a hamburger, an American staple. However, after getting my hands on the Italiano Burger and taking my first bite I quickly realized that I was wrong. With this burger, Olive Garden successfully blends classic Italian flavors into the traditional burger structure. I could taste each of the layers that went into creating the burger. The prosciutto was crispy and created a similar appeal to when bacon is put on a cheeseburger (let’s be honest, who would complain about more meat?). The fresh mozzarella was melting over the burger and held together the vegetables inside. The marinated tomatoes and the garlic aioli spread both helped to further develop the Italian flavors, but the stand out flavor was the arugula. Lettuce is a common ingredient in traditional burgers, but many places use an iceberg styled leaf which fails to add any flavor whatsoever. Arugula, on the other hand, has a much stronger taste. The bitterness of the leaf stood out in many of the bites, and brought a fresh taste and lightness to the burger.

The disappointing part of the meal was, of all things, the parmesan garlic fries. They were not terrible by any means, but they had only the slightest hint of parmesan and garlic. After being overwhelmed by the flavors of the burger I couldn’t help but be let down by its rather bland sidekick.

In the end, by replacing each of the common ingredients of a burger with an Italian substitute, Olive Garden was able to add a delicious and approachable hamburger to their menu without alienating the strong Italian nature that their customers have come to know and expect. This meal has such a complex flavor profile – with its blend of complimentary Italian favorites – that it often feels closer to an Italian-styled sandwich than a traditional hamburger. Job well done, OG. I expect the Italiano Burger to sell well, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it make the jump from the lunch menu to a full-time item. Anyone who is headed to an Olive Garden restaurant and is looking to stray from the familiar pasta dish would be well served to give the new Italiano Burger a taste.

Here’s a nice taste of food porn for you. Promo food pics always look amazing:

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