In its continuing effort to spread the love of authentic Italian cooking to the American masses, Olive Garden has tapped into Grandma's recipe vault and emerged with the Italiano Burger, a traditional Italian meal also known as a cheeseburger with fries.
Could this unexpected accord between classic Italian cooking and lowbrow American fare be the greatest thing ever? We kind of hoped so. So we ran to the suburbs.
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WHAT IT IS In English, "Italiano Burger" translates to... um, well, we have no idea. But whatever it is, it's topped with a pizza's worth of mozzarella, plus crispy prosciutto, Roma tomatoes, arugula, and aoli, then sandwiched between an Italian roll. This has huge potential.
THE BUN This thing looks, feels, and tastes like one of the endless breadsticks that DO INDEED COME WITH THE BURGER!! Woo. Which means it's delicious, but also that it has a bottomless, soup-sucking absorbancy that essentially sucks the burger dry of juices. It is the Brawny of buns.
THE INSIDES We were surprised to see that the Italiano seemed so small, so we went to McDonald's and discovered the $11.99 Italiano shared a 3in diameter with a $1 McChicken. But with fresh arugula, crispy prosciutto, and cascading mozz in play, this is a pretty sexy looking burger, regardless of the oddly high price tag.
THE VERDICT Initially, it's like eating a meatball sandwich with no sauce, but then the dryness gets more intense, despite that entire ball of mozz, with the bun/not-breadstick absorbing all the juices. It's also salty enough to attract deer. The savior here is the arugula, which sticks in your teeth and hangs back to give your taste buds a nutty do-over. When the veggie is the savior of a burger, you should stick to the soup and breadsticks.