America’s Best Italian Chains

February 24, 2015        

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From pizza to pasta to panna cotta, Italian food is a staple of the American restaurant scene.  But with so many options to choose from, where can you get the best bruschetta for your buck?  HuffPost and The Daily Meal have weighed in on America’s best casual, non-pizza Italian restaurant chains and posted a ranking of their top twelve.  EatDrinkDeals regularly posts coupons and special offers from many of the chains that made the list.

Restaurants were ranked by the following criteria: menu variety, price point, freshness, value, ambiance and design, availability of classic entrees alongside creative new dishes, special menus (including kids’ and seniors’ menus and gluten-free options), and special deals and extras (such as online ordering, catering, delivery, charity work and more).

America’s Top Twelve Italian Chains

12. Fazoli’s

Family-friendly and super-casual, Fazoli’s is famous for its unlimited breadsticks, inexpensive bowls of oven-baked pasta, oven-baked “Submarino” sandwiches, pizza and generous sampler platters.

11. Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano

Biaggi’s offers white-tablecloth ambiance with a casual atmosphere and reasonable prices.  Popular menu items include carpaccio, sherry tomato soup, black fettucine with lobster, butternut squash ravioli in a sage-brown butter sauce, potato-parmesan crusted tilapia and osso bucco.

10. Spaghetti Warehouse

Spaghetti Warehouse's Incredible 15-Layer Lasagne

Spaghetti Warehouse’s Incredible 15-Layer Lasagne

Spaghetti Warehouse’s 15 locations offer a unique dining experience and some non-traditional menu items.  Many restaurants are located in old warehouses and each features a trolley car in the middle of the dining room.  Menu selections range from their classic 15-layer lasagne to creative favorites like baked pepperoni spaghetti, spaghetti topped with beef chili and fried ravioli.

9. Zio’s Italian Kitchen

This Midwestern chain features an open kitchen and a spacious “piazza-style” atmosphere.  With an affordable weekday lunch deal and a $3.99 kids’ menu, there’s a lot to love about Zio’s, from their pepperoni bread and Italian nachos to their linguine topped with cheese ravioli and spicy shrimp and prosciutto.

8. Buca di Beppo

With a name like “Joe’s Basement”, it’s clear that guests are in for a fun dining experience at Buca di Beppo.  This chain is known for its lively atmosphere, family-friendly menu options and eclectic decorations.  Popular menu items include Cheesy Bread Florentine, square-cut pizzas, prosciutto-stuffed chicken and sausage and peppers.  Buca di Beppo has a wide range of gluten-free options and a popular “Feed 4 for $40” deal, and the chain donates $1.00 to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital for every meatball dish sold.

7. Olive Garden

With its newly revamped menu and decor, there’s a reason that many diners still count on Olive Garden for their favorite Italian-American classics, as well as creative new dishes like Moscato Peach Chicken, Steak Gorgonzola-Alfredo and Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara.  Olive Garden regularly features special deals like Parents’ Night Out and their four-course Festa Italiana dinner, and their $6.99 unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks deal is hard to beat.

6. Johnny Carino’s

Italian Nachos at Johnny Carino's

Italian Nachos at Johnny Carino’s

There’s something for everyone on the menu at Johnny Carino’s, from classic favorites like chicken Parmesan, lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs to house specialties like chicken stuffed with ham, basil, and provolone topped with mushrooms and Alfredo sauce; Parmesan-crusted and balsamic-glazed baby back ribs; and bow tie pasta with meat sauce, Italian sausage, bacon, ham, pepperoni, onions, bell peppers and cheese.  The selection of family-size platters and specialty frozen cocktails and martinis puts this menu over the top.

5. Maggiano’s Little Italy

Maggiano’s is well known for their menu that features classic Italian-American favorites alongside specialties like their Rigatoni ‘D’ with chicken, mushrooms, caramelized onions and Marsala cream sauce and higher-end items like 16-ounce Prime New York steak and veal porterhouse. Maggiano’s also delivers and offers a “Family Style” menu for parties of four or more.

4. Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Macaroni Grill has more than 200 locations nationwide and in countries including Egypt, Mexico and Japan.  Macaroni Grill is a go-to option for Italian-American red-sauce classics, but they also offer a “Lite” menu, seasonal specials, catering and online ordering.  Macaroni Grill recently started offering express lunch service at Romano’s Kitchen Counter in select locations.  You can find current lunch coupons in this post.

3. The Old Spaghetti Factory

The Old Spaghetti Factory sets the bar high with its unique dining atmosphere and almost entirely from-scratch menu.  Many of the restaurants are located in refurbished warehouses and feature antique decor and a streetcar in the dining room.  Entrees are served with bread, soup or salad, a drink and dessert, and the restaurants, which are family-owned and operated, dish up favorites such as jumbo crab ravioli; garlic shrimp fettuccine; lasagna; and pasta with Mizithra cheese (a sheep’s milk cheese imported from Greece) and browned butter.  Add their kid’s menu, gluten-free menu and senior’s menu, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

2. Bertucci’s

Roman Party Pizza at Bertucci's

Roman Party Pizza at Bertucci’s

Like some pizza with your pasta?  Bertucci’s brick oven pizza, scratch-made food and casual atmosphere might be just what you’re looking for.  You can build your own pizza or calzone or sample oven-baked favorites such as a new chicken parm casserole, lasagna rustica and chicken piccata. Popular pastas include lobster, basil, and smoked mozzarella ravioli and rigatoni with roasted peppers and sweet Italian sausage.  Top it all off with a $7.99 lunch special and Roman-style party pizzas.

1. Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Italian food doesn’t get any better than old-world family recipes, and many of the dishes served at Carrabba’s are variations on authentic Sicilian family recipes. Pastas include lobster ravioli, shrimp and scallop linguine alla vodka and old-school lasagna; chicken dishes include the popular Chicken Bryan, topped with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and lemon butter sauce; and other offerings include Roman-style pizzas, prosciutto-wrapped pork tenderloin and filet mignon with a variety of toppings. When you factor in the special menus (“15 for $15”, gluten-free and “Under 600 Calories”), wine selection, catering, online ordering and specials (including the three-course “Amore Mondays” dinners starting at $12), it’s easy to see why Carrabba’s is the cream of the crop.

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2 Responses to America’s Best Italian Chains

  1. Tom @ Cindy May 15, 2016 at 18:42 #

    We have eaten in most of them and we believe Maggiano’d to be superior in food quality. Excellent in Columbia, MD

  2. Fal February 27, 2015 at 12:12 #

    I have only eaten at Buca di Beppo once. A friend who was celebrating a birthday and i decided to try the place since neither of us had ever been. I assume we are not talking decor here as that would take up pages. It was about 2pm and there were only 2 other tables with diners. I had the eggplant parmagiana and my friend the meatballs. The food tasted like vomit to me. I thought it was perhaps my imagination and after a few bites, my friend asked if i would be offended if he did not finish what was his ‘birthday lunch’ since it tasted disgusting. A few weeks later i was having lunch in a Sweet Tomatoes about 15 miles from there and chatted with a group of ladies at the next table about restaurants. I had not mentioned Buca but they brought it up…specifically the one i had eaten at. They told me not to go that a large group of them had gone weeks prior and were totally disgusted with the food. So, it was certainly more than just my friend and i who were so turned off to the place. I assume since it is a chain, they all use the same recipes. There must be many people unhappy or who have very intense head colds.

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