The Italian Food Rule You May Not Have Realized Olive Garden Was Breaking

bowl of chicken fettuccine pasta
bowl of chicken fettuccine pasta - DronG/Shutterstock

Americans absolutely love Olive Garden; it ranks first among casual full-service chain restaurants in sales nationwide. Patrons cannot get enough of the never-ending pasta bowl, which makes sense, as there's nothing we love more than enough carbs to take down a full-grown bull moose at an affordable price. But it will likely not surprise you to learn that Olive Garden is less than authentically Italian. Not only was it not established by Italians in the first place (or any specific human being, as it was a deliberate creation of General Mills), this is a company that once tried to pass off something called "pastachetti" as an authentic Italian dish.

But there's one way in which Olive Garden's practices strongly break Italian food rules that you might not realize -- heck, you might even be doing it yourself at home: Italians never eat chicken in pasta. Seriously. Chicken fettuccine alfredo? It's not an Italian dish, even a little bit. The reason why has to do with how Italians stagger courses.

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Italians Eat The Meat Course Separate From The Pasta Course

pasta in a strainer
pasta in a strainer - Mehmet Cetin/Shutterstock

We all get that Italy takes its food seriously. It makes sense, and it's a big part of why the country is consistently considered to have some of the best cuisine in the world. But Italians eat very differently from Italian Americans, and the way they serve pasta is no exception. In America, you're likely to have one big pasta dish with meat and vegetables mixed in; we don't go for your highfalutin multiple-course dinners here, no sir.

In Italy, though, food is staggered so as not to overwhelm diners all at once. The first course is typically salad (at least we're with them there), then pasta or risotto -- by itself -- then usually a protein like chicken or fish. Authentic Italian food is all about enjoying different flavors at different times rather than just lumping them together in an admittedly delicious amalgamation of ingredients. So, you won't see pasta mixed into chicken in Italy.

Olive Garden Food Is Nothing Like Italian In All Sorts Of Ways

Olive Garden sign
Olive Garden sign - Scott Olson/Getty Images

This isn't, of course, the only way in which Olive Garden's offerings differ from those of an actual Italian restaurant. Though meatballs are a part of Italian cuisine, they're typically small and served by themselves (yes, spaghetti and meatballs are an Italian-American creation). "Italian" dressing is unheard of in Italy; salads are typically dressed with oil and vinegar or a light vinaigrette. And while Olive Garden's breadsticks are as iconic as Red Lobster's cheddar bay biscuits, you won't find breadsticks like those in Italy. You'll find something like breadsticks -- but they're called "grissini" and are long, thin, and hard enough to chip your teeth on.

None of this is to say Olive Garden isn't tasty or that you shouldn't eat there. Just know that when you do, you're not eating Italian food -- you're eating Olive Garden food. So, if you have relatives visiting from Sicily or Venice, maybe skip taking them to Olive Garden and go to Texas Roadhouse.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.