7 Restaurant Chains That Serve the Best Pasta Dishes
Sure, boiling a pot of pasta isn't hard, but there are just some moments when all you want is a plate of spaghetti and meatballs cooked by someone else. When it comes to satisfying your pasta cravings, you don't even have to worry about booking a trip to Italy or Asia; many of your favorite chain restaurants already offer some of the best pasta dishes nearby.
Restaurants like Olive Garden and Romano's Macaroni Grill have been serving high-quality pasta entrees for decades, while places like Noodles & Company are all about bringing more global ingredients and flavor combinations to their local customers. Even the Cheesecake Factory has become a hotspot for pasta fans looking for a bit of savory before indulging in a sweet dessert.
Whether you're on the hunt for ravioli, looking to indulge in Japanese-style pan noodles, or just want a really good bowl of mac and cheese, many restaurants have stepped up their game with pasta dishes that cater to different tastes and preferences. Here are the restaurants whose pastas keep customers coming back for more.
The bottomless breadsticks are just part of what makes Olive Garden a fan favorite for dining out. This Italian-American chain would be nothing with its wide variety of pasta dishes which truly keep customers coming back for more.
There's something for everyone at Olive Garden, with classics like Spaghetti & Meatballs and Chicken Alfredo, seafood pasta dishes like Shrimp Scampi, and even a Tour of Italy sampler that includes Lasagna Classico, Fettuccini Alfredo, and Chicken Parmigiana, in case you have trouble choosing your fave.
Olive Garden's popularity helped contribute to higher-than-expected revenue earnings this past year, and even fine dining chefs are willing to give its pasta credit where credit is due. Ajai Sharma, current sous chef at The Resident in New York City and former chef de partie at Altro Paradiso also in New York, gushes over the Chicken Carbonara in particular. "This dish is rich and delicious," he explains to Eat This, Not That! "The sauce is cooked and seasoned, and then the whole thing is tossed over a fire—it will always leave you satisfied."
Noodles & Company
Why have just one kind of pasta dish when you can experience a whole variety of them in one place? Noodles & Company offers some of the best fast-casual mac and cheese, with its Wisconsin Mac & Cheese dish featuring elbow pasta, a mix of aged cheddar cheese and Jack cheese, and a satisfying, creamy cheese sauce.
Diners can also try Asian-inspired dishes like Japanese Pan Noodles, or the restaurant's own "Leanguini," an innovative pasta "with fewer carbs, more protein, and all the same great taste of traditional wheat pasta."
It's also a great choice in terms of quality ingredients. The company is committed to clean ingredients, with a prohibited ingredients list, and avoids using artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives across its core menu. Customers can enjoy the Roasted Garlic Cream Tortollini or a bowl of Pasta Fresca without having to worry about where the ingredients came from.
Maggiano's Little Italy
Maggiano's is considered to be more of an upscale Italian restaurant chain. Still, its welcoming atmosphere and family-style menus make it easy to sample many of its delicious pasta dishes. The restaurant's Rigatoni "D" is one of the most popular kinds of pasta to try, featuring herb-roasted chicken, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and a Marsala cream sauce, but you can always go old-school with Mom's Lasagna made with seasoned beef, Italian sausage, ricotta, and marinara sauce, baked to perfection each time.
The pasta offerings are so unique that restaurant fans have taken to Reddit as a way to solicit menu advice. "Many things look tasty, but I only have one stomach," one Reddit user commented, to which others suggested they try any of the seafood pastas or the Eggplant Parmesan.
This Chicago-based chain has expanded across the U.S. since opening in 1991 and currently serves at least 52 locations, according to data from ScrapeHero. So if you're craving some Lobster Carbonara or Taylor Street Baked Ziti, you might not have to go too far.
Buca di Beppo
This family-style restaurant chain really leans into Italian-American culture with decor straight out of an old-school mobster film set. With over "60 dishes to feed your inner Italian," according to its website, it's only natural that the pasta menu would feature some of the most popular customer faves (once patrons have gotten their fill of the mozzarella garlic bread, of course.)
The Stuffed Shells pack in lots of flavors with spicy Italian sausage, spinach, ricotta, parmesan, Alfredo sauce, and homemade marinara sauce. Or, for a lighter option, try the Lemon Shrimp and Zucchini Spaghetti, tossed with roasted heirloom tomatoes, parmesan cheese, zucchini, and shrimp in a bright lemon sauce
There's no skimping on the portion sizes, as YouTuber Vannie Eats discovered when she reviewed the Claremont, Calif., location. She especially liked the Chicken Carbonara for its big chunks of chicken, bacon, and peas. "The carbonara is super creamy," she remarked, "and so flavorful. This is by far the creamiest carbonara I've ever had."
Carmine's Italian Restaurant
What started as a no-reservations, family-style Italian eatery in New York City has expanded to reach as far as Las Vegas and even the Bahamas these days. Dishes are meant to be shared, which means trying different kinds of pasta is an option for sure.
Carmine's is especially known for its chicken parm, made with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. It's served with spaghetti, but diners definitely don't want to pass up the housemade penne alla vodka, loaded with a creamy plum tomato sauce, Romano cheese, sautéed onions, garlic, and topped with crushed red pepper flakes.
Carmine's is also a fan favorite for special occasions because its restaurants are spacious enough to handle big groups. "If you're trying to have a birthday dinner with 15 of your closest friends, this is also where Carmine's would come in handy," one Reddit user stated. Many of the locations offer private dining rooms, so you can enjoy as much pasta as your heart desires on your birthday, anniversary, and more.
The Cheesecake Factory
Before you get a slice of the famous cheesecake for dessert, you have to have some dinner, right? Customers can choose from at least 18 different pasta entrees, and the list includes some pretty creative combinations.
For an appetizer, you can check out the Mac and Cheese Balls (made with a homemade macaroni and cheese recipe), but diners especially love the Louisiana Chicken Pasta, which includes parmesan-crusted chicken served over pasta with mushrooms, peppers, and onions in a spicy New Orleans sauce. "I love this so much," one Reddit fan commented, agreeing with another user that it was "the best thing on the menu."
Other pasta choices at the Cheesecake Factory include the Cajun Jambalaya Pasta, loaded with shrimp and chicken sautéed with tomato, onions, and peppers in a very spicy cajun sauce on top of fresh linguini. There's also the Shrimp with Angel Hair pasta, which Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist and cookbook author Ginger Hultin MS, RDN, CSO, recommends as a healthy option. And if you're a fan of the pasta sauces themselves, you can buy a bottle from the takeaway section of the restaurant after your meal.
Romano's Macaroni Grill
While it's fun to draw and color on the paper tablecloths, people typically come to Romano's Macaroni Grill for the pasta. This Italian-inspired chain restaurant has an extensive pasta menu, with elevated classics like Mom's Ricotta Meatballs with Spaghetti, made with beef, veal, pork and ricotta meatballs, Romano cheese, and your choice of classic pomodorina sauce or bolognese sauce. But, the restaurant also elevates the options with dishes like its Butternut Tortellacci, stuffed with a four-cheese blend, asiago cream, butternut squash, prosciutto, and parmesan cheese.
Pop singer Olivia Rodrigo once mentioned that her "favorite meal ever" is the Signature Truffle Mac & Cheese at Macaroni Grill, which she pairs with a Coke and the Rosemary Peasant Bread. "I have it every year on my birthday," she said in an interview for Seventeen. "It is my absolute favorite meal, and anytime I'm feeling sad, I ask my mom if we can go to Macaroni Grill and get that."
Professional chefs are fans, too. Chef Andrea Frizzi, owner of Il Posto in Denver, likes the restaurant's seafood ravioli, and Gabriel Glasier, former executive chef and founder of Chef Travel Guide, uses the chain when he needs quality meals but doesn't have time to cook.