Olive Garden's low-calorie food selection promises huge flavor in to solve portions. Execute they deliver? There's just 1 means to discover out: Eat all of them

In January, simply in time for new Year’s resolutions, Olive Garden will present its “Tastes the the Mediterranean” menu, a revamped variation of the chain’s “lighter fare” offerings. The menu consists of six dishes, two of lock brand new, all of them under 600 calories, and every one of them promising big flavor in to solve portions. However do they deliver? There’s just one means to find out: Eat every one of them.

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Yup, ns ate castle all!Samantha Okazaki / buzzpatterson.com

This is how, one recent lunchtime, I found myself at my regional Olive Garden, staring down 5 plates the food (plus salad and also breadsticks of course). I acquired a sneak emergence of the two new dishes — Linguine di Mare and Chicken Margherita — and tried some of the older ones that will certainly be difficult around: Shrimp Scampi, Chicken Piccata and Herb-Grilled Salmon (we skipped the Tilapia Piccata, but they’ll have actually that too).



For me, Olive Garden is a nostalgic thing. Ns went sometimes as a son in suburban new Jersey, i’m pretty sure I always ordered the fettucine alfredo, and I mostly just remember devouring the breadsticks. I’ve just been once due to the fact that then, last year, through a girlfriend who had a Neverending Pasta happen to burn — I got the 5-Cheese Marinara. In general, counting calorie is no my thing, for this reason I’m skeptical of “lighter fare.” So i went my tasting experience cautiously optimistic: careful that “lighter fare” can be code for “bland” or “not pasta,” confident that at least there would certainly be breadsticks. Now, having eaten my load in chicken, seafood, and also pasta (yes there is pasta), here’s what ns learned.

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Olive Garden's Shrimp Scampi Samantha Okazaki / buzzpatterson.com

The 500-calorie Shrimp Scampi is in plenty of ways what started it all. It an initial landed on the menu, together with the Chicken Piccata, together a limited-time distinct at the start of the year. Yet it easily rose to become the 2nd best-selling food on the menu (fettucine alfredo is always and forever number one dish), edging the end perennial favorites favor lasagna. Therefore Olive Garden determined to make it a permanent component of the menu, and also to ring it out with other Mediterranean-inspired low-calorie dishes that world would (hopefully) likewise love. All go hefty on ingredients like garlic, lemon and also capers, to shot to pile on flavor there is no piling top top pounds


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And yes, the Shrimp Scampi, a heap of shrimp, asparagus and chopped tomato in a garlicky sauce over point of view hair pasta is good. It can have supplied a tad an ext salt, and I’m no sure just how I feel around eating asparagus in the middle of winter, however the garlic sauce to be silky and also the portion was a great size. Ns honestly would certainly not have known this was a low-calorie food if the menu hadn’t called me. The a large bowl of pasta! and the sauce, though nowhere close to alfredo level, tho tastes rich.


Olive Garden's brand-new Linguine di MareSamantha Okazaki / buzzpatterson.com

The new Linguine di Mare (570 calories) is the red sauce equivalent to the scampi. Below a huge bowl of pasta come tossed in a basic pomodoro sauce, and topped v handfuls that shrimp, mussels and whole roasted garlic cloves. The seafood is fresh and briny, and also the roasted garlic is a flash of genius ns honestly didn’t intend of Olive Garden. Ns was likewise shocked to discover that the linguine is entirety grain — it’s equivalent from constant pasta, no gritty or wheat-y at all. But the sauce itself is one of the many noticeably “healthful” things on this menu, definition low on salt and fat. If you’re no counting calories too hard, it wouldn’t hurt come ask for a few turns of the cheese grater on this one. Sure, cheese on seafood pasta is an alleged to it is in a big no-no, however this is Olive Garden, and also I nothing think anyone will judge you for it.


Olive Garden's new Chicken MargheritaSamantha Okazaki / buzzpatterson.com

Speaking the cheese, the new Chicken Margherita (590 calories) has actually plenty that it. Two chicken breasts, pounded thin and also grilled, come topped through mozzarella cheese, pesto, roasted cherry tomatoes and a lemon garlic sauce. Numerous planks of zucchini, topped through Parmesan bread crumbs and also baked, are served on the next (good, yet if calories to be no object I’d want an ext than three). This one can be a bit less filling than the pasta dishes, however it is more flavorful thanks to the dual punch of lemon and also fresh, garlicky pesto. It to be my favourite of the two new dishes. If you want to have your low-calorie dish and also eat your cheese too, this is the dish to get.


Olive Garden's Chicken PiccataSamantha Okazaki / buzzpatterson.com

Chicken Piccata (500 calories), meanwhile, had actually just as much flavor minus the cheese. It comes in a similar lemon garlic sauce, through a generous scattering of capers and also sundried tomatoes end the top, and also those exact same zucchini planks. There’s also a grilled lemon half on the side, however the sauce is for this reason tart already I can not imagine you’d require it. Again, it won’t to fill you up favor a big bowl of pasta, however the capers and lemon add an ext salt and also zip 보다 you’ll obtain in either pasta dish. Out of every the dishes i tried, I in reality think I liked it even better than the Chicken Margherita, however that could just be due to the fact that I’m a sucker for capers. In between the two, that a nearby race.


Olive Garden's Herb-Grilled SalmonSamantha Okazaki / buzzpatterson.com

And ultimately there’s the Herb-Grilled Salmon (460 calories), one older menu item and the odd one out. With simply a light coating of garlic herb butter and also a next of steam broccoli, it"s not very exciting. I admit, i tried it last, so ns was at least one chicken breast and half a bowl of pasta in, and also my appetite may have actually been flagging. However maybe i tried that last due to the fact that out of every little thing I tried, it’s the just thing the really screams “diet food.” If you like salmon a lot, fine. Otherwise, skip it, since you have the right to feel just as self righteous — or simply as licensed has been granted to an ext of those bottomless breadsticks — when ordering any type of of the various other dishes, and also still feel favor you’re life a little.

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Olive Garden's signature salad also has a brand-new lighter fare dressingSamantha Okazaki / buzzpatterson.com

Now, I deserve to tell you that as much as Olive Garden food goes, this dishes room all good, and better than you might expect native “lighter fare”. However having consumed five at when (plus salad and breadsticks!), i can’t tell you for certain whether they will leave you feeling light and healthy. Ns obviously didn’t finish them all, however after hopping native Chicken Piccata come Linguine di Mare to yet one more bite that scampi, i personally left together stuffed together if I’d refined off a bowl of fettucine alfredo. Which is well by me.