One of the top characteristics of the United States is the fact that it’s a melting pot of different cultures. This is why a lot of our staple dinner items can trace their roots back to other countries. It’s quite safe to say that the country couldn’t have survived without Chinese takeouts, Irish pubs, and Italian restaurants.
Americans eat a lot of Italian food that it wouldn’t be a surprise if kids start thinking that lasagna, pasta, and pizza are American delicacies. Sure, there are varieties that came to life through American ingenuity (mac and cheese, anyone?) but let’s give credit where it is due. Italians have really done the US a great favor by sharing their food.
The popularity of this cuisine can be proven by the fact that Italian restaurants are found in just about any part of the US with a moderately-sized population. In most areas, however, it will be easier to find a chain rather than a family-owned eatery.
The Olive Garden and the Maggiano’s Little Italy are two of the most popular Italian-themed restaurant chains today. Lots of people consider them as their go-to restaurants when they want to dine out with the whole family. They’re also often very versatile enough for dates and even nights out with friends in select locations.
But which one is the better pick for someone who just wants some Italian comfort food? Check out the comparison below.
Olive Garden: America’s Take On Italian Cuisine
For a large chunk of the population, the Olive Garden is the first thing that comes to mind when the phrase “Italian cuisine” is mentioned. With 850 locations in the US, this casual dining chain is practically everywhere. It has been catering to the American public since the early 1980s, so a lot of adults today practically grew up eating in their restaurants.
Some might even consider the brand a household name already. As it’s a family-friendly eatery, it can be the perfect place to celebrate various occasions and milestones. So much so that it’s an acceptable choice for relatively laid-back dates as it’s not flashy or crude.
Being a chain restaurant, it shouldn’t be surprising that Olive Garden isn’t exactly an authentic Italian restaurant. Aside from the fact that they trace their roots to Orlando, Florida, they also don’t claim to be purveyors of dishes from Italy.
What they’re good at, however, is taking classic and popular Italian dishes and giving them an American twist. This makes their food so enjoyable for Americans because they were tweaked to suit your palate already.
Best known for their unlimited breadsticks, you should also give the Tour of Italy, Grilled Chicken Piadina, Zeppoli, and the Ravioli di Portobello. You can also find lots of other great options as they tend to have an extensive menu.
Maggiano’s Little Italy: The Chain Restaurant Where You Can Bring a Date
While there’s nothing wrong about taking a date to a casual dining restaurant chain, not everyone is too fond of doing so for one reason or another. However, this doesn’t really apply to Maggiano’s Little Italy. This place is actually hailed as the best date spot of all Italian restaurant chains.
Those who have tried eating at Maggiano’s will understand why this place can be considered as a good date spot. Their restaurants are cozy and nicely designed. They’re also full-service eateries so you can just concentrate on your date the whole time you’re there. The prices are also just right for your date to not think that you’re being cheap without making a dent in your savings.
But like any other Italian restaurant chains, they’re also suitable for families and large groups. Their generous servings will ensure that you’ll be struggling to make room for dessert.
With just about 50 locations around the US, Maggiano’s doesn’t really feel like a chain restaurant for a lot of people. For one, they don’t have unlimited breadsticks, so you might need to order an appetizer to get the ball rolling. Their specialties are steak and veal which are not exactly standard chain fare. So if you’re after something a bit more high-end than a casual dining chain restaurant that’s not too posh, Maggiano’s might do the trick for you.
As you might have noticed, the Olive Garden and Maggiano’s Little Italy have their own specific charms and characteristics that can draw different people in. The only similarity they have is that they both serve Italian-American dishes and that they’re family friendly.
They can be great alternatives to each other if you’d love to celebrate with Italian food most of the time. For bigger occasions or random night outs with your spouse, Maggiano’s can be a great place to visit. If you want to dine with the whole family on a casual occasion, the Olive Garden will be a great pick.