Olive Garden chicken parm

If you want to have dinner at a restaurant that feels upscale but won’t absolutely slaughter your wallet, look no further than Olive Garden. This American-Italian chain has a homey atmosphere, reasonably priced drinks, and endless breadsticks. Need we say more?

While Olive Garden is primarily known for its never-ending soup, salad, and breadsticks (which you can take home, by the way), its menu has much more to offer. Some of the chain’s most popular dishes are delicious Italian classics like fettuccine alfredo, shrimp scampi, and lasagna.

Many of us like to order the same thing every time, but if you’re willing to try something new, you should definitely consider ordering the chicken parmigiana. Okay, so technically, chicken parm isn’t exactly an Italian classic. The version we know and love isn’t even a thing in Italy! But nevertheless, it will still give you that dining-in-the-Tuscan-countryside feeling. Put on a nice shirt, and andiamo (let’s go)!

What even is chicken parmigiana?

chicken parm

Also known as chicken parmesan or chicken parm, this dish consists of breaded chicken breast smothered in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, per Olive Garden’s website. Even better, you get TWO. Yes, that’s right, you get two whole delicious pieces of chicken. The chicken parm also comes with spaghetti and meatballs and your choice of soup or salad. You will definitely be taking leftovers home, but who doesn’t love getting an extra meal or two for your money?

Speaking of money, chicken parm falls in the middle range of Olive Garden pricing, per Worthly. While not quite as expensive as the salmon bruschetta or the steak (each costing nearly $20), the chicken parm is still up there. Depending on location, chicken parm ranges from $14 to $17. That’s a lot more expensive than a Whopper, but it’s 100% worth the splurge. Keep in mind, you’ll get more than one meal out of this behemoth, so it’s actually very fairly priced.

Is it worth ordering?

Giant chicken parmigiana

A dish can have all your favorite things (yeah, we’re talking about carbs and cheese), but none of that matters if the yum-factor isn’t there. While we can’t say for sure whether or not Olive Garden’s chicken parm is going to be your new go-to order, we can say that it seems to be a hit or miss for many diners.

One reviewer on Trip Advisor was ultimately disappointed by what they got for their money, saying the restaurant may as well have gotten "some cheap frozen breaded chicken from a large warehouse and slapped a few things on top." Their conclusion: do not order the chicken parmigiana. On the other end of the spectrum, another diner told Insider that the chicken parm exceeded her expectations. She compared it to an oversized chicken finger, but a delicious one.

As you might expect, reviews on Facebook were just as mixed. Some people loved Olive Garden’s chicken parm, and others compared it to a cafeteria chicken patty. Honestly, the best way to get the scoop is to try the dish yourself.

Nutrition details you should know

chicken parm

You might want to order the salad if you’re ordering chicken parm. There’s a reason this dish tastes so good — it has 1060 calories. (Think that’s bad? As it turns out, the chicken Alfredo is even more of an indulgence, weighing in at 1570 calories!)

According to the Olive Garden website, the chicken parm contains 52 grams of total fat, which is pretty dang close to what Cleveland Clinic lists as the daily suggested intake. Makes sense, considering how this one meal can be close to half of your recommended daily calorie count. If you know you’re going to Olive Garden for dinner, maybe eat a light lunch.

As for sodium, brace yourself: 2980 milligrams. For comparison, a medium fry at McDonald’s only contains 230 milligrams of sodium (via Insider). Yikes. Yeah, so clearly the chicken parm isn’t the healthiest choice, but again, you’re unlikely to eat the entire dish in one sitting. Plus, if you’re going to Olive Garden, you might as well lean into it.

Is chicken parmigiana here to stay?

chicken parm

Fortunately, it would seem the chicken parm is an Olive Garden staple. You can find it in all its lovely cheesy glory with the other entree listings on the menu. That being said, every so often the restaurant chain brings back a super-sized version of this dish.

Simply named the Giant Chicken Parmigiana, this feast debuted in 2019 as part of the Giant Italian Classics promotion. Seriously, though, it might just be possible to feed an entire small family (or if you order it by yourself, you can eat it all week). This beast measures at almost a foot long, and that’s before it’s covered in sauce and cheese. Nothing says Italy like generosity, nor America like super-sized food. Best of both worlds, yeah?

Even though the chicken parm seems like it’s here to stay, you don’t want to wait. You don’t even have to dine in-restaurant; you can order it for pickup through Olive Garden’s website or even get it delivered to your house. Stay in your pajamas, watch a movie, and enjoy your chicken parm.

Secrets for customizing your order

chicken parm

If you’re a picky eater (or even if you just like to mix things up), you’ll be pleased to learn that you can totally customize your chicken parm order. Sure, you can choose salad or soup, and then you get to pick from four or so soups, but it gets way better.

Remember how the chicken parm comes with spaghetti and meatballs? Well, guess what — you can switch out the spaghetti. That’s right, you can customize your pasta, pasta sauce, and topping. This means you get your choice of pasta, your choice of sauce, your choice of topping. You want angel hair with alfredo sauce and sausage? Not a problem. A personal favorite is substituting in fettuccine alfredo.

Fried chicken, melted cheese, fresh pasta, and customizable accompaniments — what’s not to love? (Okay, maybe the calories or the price, but you can always make a killer copycat recipe at home. And if you do, remember the Italians’ generosity and invite us!)