Italian cuisine holds a special place in the hearts of Americans, with its rich flavors and comforting dishes. It’s no wonder that Italian food is a favorite across the country, with approximately 100,000 Italian restaurants dotting the United States. Among these are various Italian chain restaurants, offering a range of experiences and flavors. In this article, we’ll take a culinary journey through the ranks, from the least impressive to the absolute best.
13. Johnny Carino’s
Once a beloved Italian chain, Johnny Carino’s has unfortunately lost its luster over the years. With a significant decline in quality and a dwindling number of locations, this restaurant now offers lackluster and overpriced food. Even classic dishes like pizza and lasagna fail to impress, leaving diners underwhelmed and disappointed. It’s best to avoid this chain altogether.
While Fazoli’s attempts to present authentic Italian cuisine, it falls short in both taste and execution. Their marketing tactics, using phony Italian words and phrases, can be misleading. The food itself is reminiscent of cafeteria fare and fails to deliver a satisfying Italian experience. It’s best to steer clear of this chain.
11. Spaghetti Warehouse
With its splendid decor and inviting atmosphere, Spaghetti Warehouse initially holds promise. However, the disappointment sets in once the food arrives. The spaghetti, a staple of the restaurant’s name, is often overcooked and mushy, while the sauce lacks flavor. Even the meatballs fail to impress. Despite the ambiance, the food simply doesn’t live up to expectations.
With a significant presence in New England, Bertucci’s offers an extensive menu for both lunch and dinner. Families appreciate the variety of options available for children. However, the quality of the food is average at best, reminiscent of fast-food fare. Considering the relatively high prices, it’s difficult to justify a visit to this chain. Although it survived bankruptcy, it fails to offer an exceptional dining experience.
9. Zio’s Italian Kitchen
At Zio’s Italian Kitchen, the key to a satisfying meal lies in sticking to their pasta dishes. While their meat dishes disappoint, pasta options like Baked Ziti, Cheese Ravioli, and Manicotti are delicious and sure to please. Deviating from pasta can lead to a lackluster experience, so it’s best to play it safe at this chain.
8. Olive Garden
Olive Garden has become a household name, and for good reason. While it may not offer the most authentic Italian experience, it delivers comfort food that satisfies taste buds across the nation. Olive Garden’s consistency, reasonable prices, and popular specials like the Never Ending Pasta Bowl and unlimited breadsticks, soup, and salad contribute to its success. While not the absolute best, it serves its purpose well.
7. Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano
With delectable food and a notable selection of gluten-free options, Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano earns its place in the upper echelon of Italian chains. However, the restaurant’s service can be inconsistent, which mars the overall experience. Taking this into account is essential when considering a visit to this chain.
6. Brio Italian Grille
Brio Italian Grille impresses with its fancy yet comfortable ambiance and excellent service. While the menu lacks diversity and the serving sizes can be inconsistent, the food is consistently satisfying. Although the prices lean toward the higher end, Brio Italian Grille provides a worthwhile experience for special occasions.
5. The Old Spaghetti Factory
With a rich history spanning over 50 years, The Old Spaghetti Factory stands as a family-owned and family-operated Italian restaurant chain. Originating in Portland, Oregon, this chain has expanded to over 40 locations across several states. The restaurant boasts a memorable dining experience with its lively decorations and a family-friendly yet classy ambiance. While the food may not reach the same level as higher-ranking establishments, The Old Spaghetti Factory never fails to satisfy diners, leaving them with contented smiles and full stomachs. Their signature three-course meals feature an entree, freshly baked bread, a choice of soup or salad, and a delightful scoop of spumoni or vanilla ice cream for dessert.
4. Romano’s Macaroni Grill
Founded in 1988 by the visionary behind Fuddruckers, Romano’s Macaroni Grill has emerged as an elite Italian chain restaurant with over 40 locations across 15 states. Renowned for its exceptional meat dishes, such as the Braised Lamb Shank and Shrimp Portofino, Romano’s Macaroni Grill showcases culinary excellence. Indulge in their delectable desserts, including Romano’s Cannoli and Tiramisu. While their pasta dishes may not reach the same heights as their meat offerings, they still provide a satisfying dining experience.
3. Buca di Beppo
Buca di Beppo may initially sound like an upscale establishment, but in reality, it embodies a casual and family-style Italian dining experience. Translating to “my buddy’s basement” in Italian, Buca di Beppo exudes a laid-back atmosphere with its red-checkered tablecloths and welcoming ambiance. Generous serving sizes, beginning with mouthwatering free garlic bread, make every meal memorable. From hearty appetizers to larger-than-life entrees, Buca di Beppo ensures both quantity and quality. Each bite of their dishes is a delightful journey that will leave you fully satisfied.
2. Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Carrabba’s Italian Grill, a strong contender for the top spot, offers outstanding Italian cuisine, impeccable service, and charming restaurant settings. Unlike other chains, the quality of their meat and pasta dishes is equally impressive. The Chicken Bryan, a customer favorite, features wood-grilled chicken topped with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, lemon butter, and basil. Paired with perfectly cooked pasta and a tantalizing sauce, Carrabba’s Italian Grill provides the best of both worlds. Owned by Bloomin’ Brands, the same company behind Outback Steakhouse, this chain surpasses any reservations and stands on its own as a culinary gem.
1. Maggiano’s Little Italy
Taking the crown as the epitome of Italian chain restaurants is Maggiano’s Little Italy. Founded in Chicago, Illinois, in 1991, this establishment offers a dream-like Italian dining experience. Whether you’re on a date, with family, or enjoying the company of friends, Maggiano’s Little Italy is the place to be. Known for their generous portions, unique Italy-inspired dishes, and warm, inviting ambiance, each visit is an escape to culinary bliss. From appetizers to main courses and luscious desserts, every dish is meticulously presented and bursting with exquisite flavors. Maggiano’s Little Italy guarantees an enchanting experience that will leave you savoring every unforgettable bite.