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Olive Garden's Pasta Deals Are Making the Chain a Must-Visit Again—Here's Why

The restaurant chain brought back its Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion, and everyone's been flocking to it.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

After a three-year hiatus, Olive Garden decided to bring back its Never-Ending Pasta Bowl promotion in October 2022, and, wow, was it the right move in a tricky time for restaurants. The pasta chain is now saying that the deal was such a smashing success—attracting both old and new customers alike—that it's made Olive Garden a must-visit restaurant again.

The offer, which ended Nov. 20, allows you to order as much pasta as you want, along with unlimited soup or salad and breadsticks, for a fixed price of $13.99. However, this time around, the price tag for a Never-Ending Pasta Bowl was $3 more expensive than when it last appeared in 2019, and as a result, it paid off big for the restaurant chain.

"[We] significantly improved the margin of this offer while still providing tremendous value for our guests," Darden Restaurants CEO Rick Cardenas said during an earnings call last week, reports Restaurant Business Online. "We have exceeded our expectations, and that's a pretty pleasant surprise for us."

8 Secrets You Should Know About Olive Garden

Now, Olive Garden is estimating total sales in 2022 to be a whopping $10.3-10.4 billion dollars, which is a whole lotta pasta being sold! The restaurant chain will likely bring back the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl promotion soon, given its recent success, and you may find that Olive Garden is popping up more and more as a dining-out option within your circle. Here's what you should know about the chain's deals, how to get your money's worth, and how to order mindfully when faced with "never-ending" pasta and breadstick options.

How to Get Your Money's Worth from Olive Garden's Deals

olive garden fettuccine alfredo
Olive Garden / Facebook

Critics of the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl say it's just a gimmick because it's nearly impossible to eat enough pasta to make it worth your while.

Adding a protein costs $4.99, bringing the cost about in line with comparable standalone entrees, which cost anywhere from $12.99 (for a simple spaghetti with meat sauce) to $20 or more (for something like seafood alfredo).

In order to maximize the deal and get your money's worth, pros recommend skipping the breadsticks, soup and salad, and going straight to the pasta. Eat what you can and order another plate. Then, ask for the leftovers to be wrapped up to go.

Olive Garden Calories Can Add Up

olive garden Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara
Olive Garden

The nutritional content of the dishes served at Olive Garden can vary widely. For example, a bowl of pasta with marinara sauce and a side of garlic breadsticks can range from around 600 to 1,000 calories, depending on the type and portion size of the pasta and sauce.

Other dishes, such as chicken parmesan or shrimp scampi, can be higher in calories, while salads and soups can be lower.

"The worst appetizer option is the Loaded Pasta Chips at 1,410 calories," Kelli McGrane MS, RD, said in our menu ranking of the Best & Worst Menu Items at Olive Garden.

Even worse: "The Chocolate Brownie Lasagna contains more sugar than 9 glazed donuts," says McGrane. "With a whopping 103 grams of sugar, 144 grams of carbs, 27 grams of saturated fat, and 910 calories, it's one of the least healthy options on the entire menu."

Be Mindful When Ordering "All You Can Eat" Deals

breadsticks at Olive Garden
Courtesy of Olive Garden

It's important to be mindful of portion sizes and to make balanced choices when dining out. It's also a good idea to pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues and to stop eating when you feel satisfied.

One of the main dangers of all-you-can-eat deals is that they can encourage people to eat more than they would normally, leading to overeating and potentially contributing to weight gain and other health problems.

Additionally, all-you-can-eat deals like this one may not offer a wide variety of nutritious options, and people may choose to fill up on unhealthy, high-calorie foods rather than healthier options.

Some people may feel pressure to eat more than they would normally at an all-you-can-eat restaurant in order to get their money's worth, which can lead to overeating and health problems. It's important to be mindful of these potential dangers and make healthy choices when dining out—whether you're at Olive Garden or any other restaurant. 

For more specific guidance, here's exactly what nutritionists order at Olive Garden to stay on track with their health goals.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is Founding Editor of Body Network Read more about Alek