ORLANDO Fla. Olive Garden said Wednesday it has added several items to its menu, including fried lasagna, that were inspired by the annual pilgrimage to Italy taken by the chain's executive chefs.
Olive Garden, a 692-unit division of Orlando-based Darden Restaurants Inc., sends its culinary team to Italy each year to study the cuisines of various regions in the country. The new menu items are based on last year's trip, which focused on the central and northern parts of Italy.
The Lasagna Fritta appetizer features bite-sized pieces of fried parmesan-crusted lasagna served over alfredo sauce and topped with marinara sauce. Olive Garden said the dish was inspired by street food its chefs encountered during a tour of the Veneto region of Northern Italy.
Also new on the menu is Pork Milanese, which includes a pork loin that is pounded thin and coated in herbed breadcrumbs, parsley and parmesan and then pan-seared. It's served with asiago-filled tortelloni and spinach tossed in a garlic cream sauce.
For dessert, the chain added Zeppoli, a dish of fried dough similar to beignets. The fried puffs of dough are dusted with vanilla-infused sugar and served with a chocolate dipping sauce. Olive Garden also expanded its wine list with the addition of Castello del Poggio Moscato, a sweet, lightly sparkling wine from the Piedmont region of Italy.
Olive Garden also said it added cheese ravioli to its kids' Garden Fare menu, which features only dishes in which less than 30 percent of the calories come from fat. The Garden Fare menu for kids already includes spaghetti and tomato sauces as well as grilled chicken with pasta and broccoli.