Italian Chain Restaurants Ranked From Worst To Best

It's an understatement to say that Americans like Italian food. The truth of the matter is that the attraction is a full-blown obsession. From lasagna to pizza, and from spaghetti to tiramisu, Americans can't get enough. It doesn't come as a surprise that one out of every eight restaurants in the United States serves Italian food, which means there are approximately 100,000 Italian restaurants in the country.

If you travel to Italy, you may be shocked to find that spaghetti with large meatballs isn't really a thing over there. Furthermore, the pizza in Italy is completely different from the majority of what you find in the United States. However, while Americanized Italian food might not be the most authentic, it's all so yummy that nobody's taste buds are complaining.

Italian chain restaurants are plentiful, particularly in urban areas. That said, the food at these chains can vary greatly. To help lead you toward the most scrumptious Italian food, we have ranked Italian chain restaurants — from the worst of the worst to the cream of the crop.

15. Johnny Carino's

A couple of decades ago, Johnny Carino's had great Italian food. It seemed like you couldn't go wrong with anything you decided to select from their menu. After you were finished with your main course, Johnny Carino's desserts would put an even bigger smile on your face.

Sadly, things are no longer the same at this Italian chain restaurant. Johnny Carino's has suffered financially in recent years and they've gone from having more than 170 locations to having approximately 40 locations. Over the last 20 years or so, the quality of their food has declined precipitously. Nowadays, Johnny Carino's is the place you go if you want yucky food that is painfully overpriced. Even seemingly safe choices like pizza, tortelloni, and lasagna will leave you totally underwhelmed. The desserts, specifically their watery tiramisu, will just add to the sadness.

Even if you enjoyed Johnny Carino's back in the day, avoid this place by all means necessary. It's nowhere close to as tasty as you might remember.

14. Fazoli's

Fazoli's has more than 200 restaurants spread across more than 25 states. Even if there's a location near you and you're desperate for Italian food, just say no. This chain doesn't deserve your business.

First of all, Fazoli's uses trickery to try to make you believe that their food is truly authentic, when that is simply not the case. While restaurants can't be blamed for making their food sound more delicious than it really is, Fazoli's goes further by using phony Italian words and phrases to try and fool you. That's a step too far.

Secondly, their food just isn't that good. It'd be one thing if they used sneaky marketing tactics to get you in the door and then blew you away with delectable food. But, instead, once you go to Fazoli's, you'll realize you've been tricked. Their Italian food is at the level of what you'd expect from a school cafeteria. Stay away.

13. Spaghetti Warehouse

The first time you visit a Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant, your expectations will be sky-high. The decor is undeniably splendid. Each location looks exactly like how you'd expect an Italian restaurant to look. The atmosphere will please your senses and your mouth will begin to water as you think about the amazing food that will surely be served to you.

Tragically, once your food arrives at your table, the disappointment you feel will be palpable. While the decor and the atmosphere are pristine, the food is a total and utter letdown. At a restaurant called Spaghetti Warehouse, you'd think that you could at least trust the spaghetti. But, no, you'll find that assumption to be inaccurate. Their spaghetti tastes like it has been cooked too long and is now a mushy mess. The sauce lacks flavor and even the meatballs will have you yawning with boredom. By the time you finish eating at Spaghetti Warehouse, you'll have wished you had picked a better Italian chain restaurant.

12. Bertucci's

If you're in New England, there's a good chance that you're within driving distance to a Bertucci's. This chain has more than 50 locations, all of which are east of the Mississippi River.

The good news is that Bertucci's has relatively extensive menus for both lunch and dinner. If you have a favorite Italian food, there's a strong likelihood that you'll find it on their menu. Moreover, they have a lot of options on their menus for children, which makes this chain a favorite destination for families.

Unfortunately, the bad news outweighs the good news. Most egregiously, the quality of food at Bertucci's is basically what you'd expect from a drive-thru window. The food isn't bad, mind you, but this place is basically the McDonald's of Italian chain restaurants. That alone wouldn't be a deal-breaker but when you factor in the high price tags that you'll find on the menu, it makes Bertucci's impossible to recommend. Decent food for high prices isn't a recipe for success, which is probably why they had to file for bankruptcy back in 2018. This chain is still alive and kicking but it isn't worth your hard-earned dollars.

11. Bravo! Italian Kitchen

The first Bravo! Italian Kitchen opened its doors for the first time in Columbus, Ohio, in 1992. Since the start, they've been a restaurant where you can find yummy Italian food. Today, there are more than two dozen locations in 14 states. From classics like Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti Bolognese to fancier choices like Crispy Shrimp Napoli and Fra Diavolo, you can find it on Bravo! Italian Kitchen's dinner menu.

What holds back this chain from being higher in our ranking? The answer is simple: inconsistency. Sometimes you'll be ecstatic after going to Bravo! Italian Kitchen. The Spaghetti Pomodoro, Fettuccine Alfredo, or whatever it is that you choose will be scrumptious and will leave you counting down the days until you visit once more. But, regrettably, that isn't always the outcome, as sometimes you'll be dismayed to find their food to be less than stellar. Even if you order the same exact meal, you won't know what to expect from one visit to the next. 

10. Amato's

With a history that dates back more than 120 years, not many Italian chain restaurants in the United States can hold a candle to Amato's when it comes to experience. Their founder began selling Italian food in 1900 in Portland, Maine. By 1902, Portland was the home of Amato's Italian Sandwiches. These days, this chain sells a lot more than sandwiches. At Amato's, you can get your hands on a wide host of Italian goodies, ranging from calzones to pizzas to pastas.

The food at this place is reliably good. Nothing they serve will knock your socks off but this Italian chain restaurant definitely deserves to be considered at least average when compared to the competition. The experience and know-how they've built up over the years can be tasted in each bite of food. While you probably shouldn't go to Amato's if you're looking to impress a date, it's a fine choice if you just want good Italian food at good prices.

9. Zio's Italian Kitchen

If you go to Zio's Italian Kitchen with a plan, you can be confident that you will be thrilled with your meal. Conversely, if you have no idea of what you should be doing, don't be stunned when you leave this restaurant unfulfilled and unhappy.

Zio's Italian Kitchen has an immense menu with virtually limitless options. If it's considered Italian food, you will find it somewhere on their menu. That said, not everything they serve is the same quality. Truthfully, it's not even close.

At Zio's Italian Kitchen, your strategy should be to avoid meat dishes and stick with pasta dishes. From the Chicken Piccata to the Grilled Tilapia, their meat dishes promise to underwhelm. On the other hand, their pasta dishes like Baked Ziti, Cheese Ravioli, and Manicotti are absolutely stupendous. If you pick their pasta, you'll be overjoyed with Zio's Italian Kitchen. If you deviate from that game plan and pick a dish that revolves around meat, you'll live to regret it.

8. Olive Garden

Sure, Olive Garden won't win any award for their authenticism. This isn't a chain you go to for a fine-dining experience. Olive Garden and the food they serve will never be confused for a Michelin-starred restaurant. But you also shouldn't be ashamed if you love this place. They serve comfort food that is adored by taste buds from coast to coast, they have delicious salad, and their glorious breadsticks are addicting.

When it comes to Italian chain restaurants, Olive Garden is the most successful — both in terms of sales and the number of locations. That's no accident. The quality of Olive Garden's food is always the same, no matter which location you visit. Their prices are always reasonable and they have tempting specials like the Never Ending Pasta Bowl and the unlimited breadsticks, soup, and salad.

Olive Garden isn't the best of the best. No one could argue that with a straight face, however, it's a chain that serves its purpose — and serves it well.

7. Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano

There's a lot to like about Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano. Most importantly, the food here is really, really good. In fact, if you just consider the food they serve, this chain is unquestionably in the upper echelon. Don't be surprised if you find yourself licking your plate at the end of the meal.

In addition to tasty grub, Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano gets bonus points for having a tremendous selection of options for those looking for gluten-free food. If you're on a gluten-free diet and you have a hankering for Italian food, go to this restaurant — you won't be sorry.

Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano has one major drawback, though. The service at this chain isn't very good, which leads to some mediocre reviews. Considering that their food isn't exactly cheap, diners are right to expect quality service. Unfortunately, the service at this chain can be somewhat undependable. If you are planning on visiting this restaurant, be sure to factor in their shaky service when making your decision.

6. Brio Italian Grille

Brio Italian Grille has locations across the country, from California to New Jersey. Unlike the aforementioned Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano, the service at this chain is top-notch. Their restaurants are fancy enough to impress, while simultaneously being comfortable places to relax and unwind. While the prices are on the high side, you can definitely afford to visit on special occasions. For example, their entrees are cheaper than the entrees found at most national steakhouse chains.

Two issues hold Brio Italian Grille back from climbing higher in this ranking. First of all, there's a lack of diversity on their menu. Too much of their food is similar. Other Italian restaurants offer a wider array of options. Second of all, the serving sizes here can be hit or miss. Sometimes, you'll be completely satisfied by the amount of food you get. Other times, you will enjoy the food but you will wish that there was more of it.

5. The Old Spaghetti Factory

The Old Spaghetti Factory isn't exaggerating about their age. This family-owned and family-operated restaurant chain has been around for more than 50 years. Their first location was in Portland, Oregon. Currently, they have more than 40 locations in over a dozen states.

When it comes to fun decorations and a family-friendly yet classy ambiance, this chain delivers. The Old Spaghetti Factory is always a memorable destination. Likewise, the food never disappoints. While not at the same level as the food at the restaurants higher on this list, you'll always leave this eatery with a big grin and full tummy.

The Old Spaghetti Factory is known for their three-course meals that features an entree, bread that has been freshly baked, soup or salad, and a scoop of spumoni or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Even if you've never tried spumoni before, don't be intimidated and settle for the vanilla ice cream. Spumoni is a milk sherbet similar to Neapolitan ice cream.

4. Romano's Macaroni Grill

Romano's Macaroni Grill is truly an elite Italian chain restaurant. Launched in 1988 by the same guy who founded Fuddruckers, this chain now has more than 40 locations in a total of 15 states.

This place is basically the opposite of Zio's Italian Kitchen. At that chain, the meat dishes should be avoided. At Romano's Macaroni Grill, the meat dishes are to die for. From the Braised Lamb Shank to the Shrimp Portofino, and from the Pollo Caprese to the Grilled Salmon, all the meat options on their menu are marvelous. Their dessert options, from Romano's Cannoli to the Tiramisu, are also fantastic.

Despite having the word "macaroni" in their name, the pasta dishes at Romano's Macaroni Grill don't live up to the high standards set by their meat dishes. Their pasta dishes are undoubtedly better than average, however, they won't leave you in a state of awe like their meat dishes will.

3. Buca di Beppo

Unless you speak Italian, when you see the name of this restaurant for the first time, you might be unnerved. Buca di Beppo may sound like a place where a fancy dress or a suit and tie is required — but that's not the case, at all. In fact, Buca di Beppo basically translates to "my buddy's basement" and that translation hints at exactly why you'll love this chain. From the red-checkered tablecloths to the laid-back mood that permeates the restaurant, this is family-style Italian dining at its best.

The greatness of Buca di Beppo begins with the large serving sizes. Your meal starts with free garlic bread that is better than the free bread you get at any other Italian chain restaurant. From there, the appetizers are big and hearty, and the entrees are larger than you imagine. It's not just the quantity that shines at Buca di Beppo, the quality is also very high. You'll love your meal until the moment the final morsel has disappeared into your mouth.

2. Carrabba's Italian Grill

Carrabba's Italian Grill is definitely in the running for the top spot in this ranking. They didn't quite win the race but it was a very close call. This place serves outstanding Italian food, the service is impeccable, and the restaurants are both sophisticated and delightful.

Unlike destinations like Zio's Italian Kitchen and Romano's Macaroni Grill, there isn't a huge difference between the quality of their meat dishes and pasta dishes. One of Carrabba's Italian Grill's most popular menu items is the Chicken Bryan. This majestic dish features chicken that has been wood-grilled and then covered with sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, lemon butter, and basil. On the side, you get a generous amount of pasta that has been cooked to perfection and topped with a wondrous sauce. It's the best of both worlds.

Some people may be concerned by the fact that Carrabba's Italian Grill is owned by Bloomin' Brands, the same company that owns Outback Steakhouse. However, you shouldn't worry about that. Even if you think Outback Steakhouse is overrated and not worthy of your time or money, you'll still love Carrabba's Italian Grill.

1. Maggiano's Little Italy

Maggiano's Little Italy is everything you dream of in an Italian chain restaurant. Whether you're on a date, looking to feed your family, or simply want a yummy escape with friends, this is the place to go. Founded in Chicago, Illinois, in 1991, this chain is known for their humongous portions, their unique, Italy-inspired offerings, and the warm, inviting aura of each of their restaurants. The presentation of their food is always masterful and the flavors will blow your mind, even if you come prepared for greatness. Each mouthful is euphoric, whether you're enjoying an appetizer, a main course, or one of their luscious desserts.

When you're looking over the vast menu at Maggiano's Little Italy, you should have complete confidence that anything you decide to order will be delicious. With that level of assuredness, you can let your taste buds be your guide. Just be sure you're hungry when you visit because you'll want room to savor each and every bite of what you order.