Big advertising campaign underway for Olive Garden’s “breadstick sandwiches”. Now the idea of a breadstick sandwich might strike you as absurd, if you think of breadsticks as pencil-thin and crisp, like the grissini here:


But OG’s breadsticks are wide grissini, and they are chewy rather than crisp, so they can serve as the bun in a sandwich.

From Wikipedia:

Breadsticks (grissini, dipping sticks) are generally pencil-sized sticks of crisp, dry bread originating in Turin and the surrounding area in Italy. They are originally thought to have been created in the 14th century; although according to a local tradition, they were invented by a baker in Lanzo Torinese (northern Italy) in 1679.

Breadsticks may be offered at the table in restaurants as an appetizer. In some instances or regions they may be a type that is larger than pencil-sized [wide grissini].

Now, specifically at OG. From a Buzzfeed story of 5/26 about the breadstick sandwiches, by Rachel Sanders and Venessa Wong:

The sandwiches are part of the restaurant chain’s plan to “develop familiar flavors and package it differently,” Olive Garden executive chef Jim Nuetzi told us. And breadsticks were an obvious choice to experiment with because they’re so popular [the restaurant offers unlimited breadsticks, along with a choice between unlimited salad and unlimited soup]. “So [customers] have something new,” Nuetzi said, “but it’s recognizable enough that they get their cravings fulfilled.”

An interesting marketing strategy: to offer dishes that are both new and familiar. More:

“My focus is repurposing [menu items], because that’s what customers want,” Nuetzi said. “We were already moving in this direction, but once we saw sausage-stuffed rigatoni take off the way it did, that reinforced it and we doubled down on this.”

The forthcoming “rollatini” will be another example of new innovation on what Jose Duenas, Olive Garden’s EVP of marketing, called “ownable classics” (things like breadsticks and lasagna): That’s sauce and vegetables rolled up in pasta, so you never need face the difficulties of eating lasagna in square form again.

(Apparently, the rollatini was offered, but for a limited time, and it’s now off the menu. As for rollatini, in Italy they are known as involtini; and the wrapping isn’t pasta, but thin slices of eggplant — or veal, chicken, or fish.)

Notes from the Buzzfeed piece:

– there are two varieties: chicken parmesan and meatball,

– each with stuff in between two halves of a breadstick

– the sandwich breadsticks are wider and [a bit] shorter than the classic breadstick from OG; the roll version is about 1.75 inches wide compared with the classic’s 1.25


Sandwich on the left, OG breadstick on the right

And in an entertaining conclusion, Sanders and Wong write:

The most important thing about the breadstick sandwiches is that they also come with unlimited breadsticks.

On Olive Garden. From Wikipedia:

Olive Garden is an American casual dining restaurant chain specializing in Italian-American cuisine. It is a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, Inc., which is headquartered in unincorporated Orange County, Florida, near Orlando. … Olive Garden operates more than 800 locations globally.

… Olive Garden serves several types of Italian-American cuisine including pasta dishes, steaks, and salads. The company advertises its bread stick product and centers its lunch menu around it. Additionally, the company advertises that its soups are made fresh in each location daily instead of importing them from a commissary or outside vendor.

In general, OG aims to provide an idealized Italian family meal. Sometimes this means fabricating “Italian” foods, like the soffatelli and pastachetti I reported on in this posting.

(Until recently, Red Lobster — reported on here — was also a Darden restaurant.)

The category of casual dining restaurant. From Wikipedia:

Historically, restaurant referred only to places that provided tables where one sat down to eat the meal, typically served by a waiter. Following the rise of fast food and take-out restaurants, a retronym for the older “standard” restaurant was created, sit-down restaurant. Most commonly, “sit-down restaurant” refers to a casual dining restaurant with table service, rather than a fast food restaurant or a diner, where one orders food at a counter.

… A casual dining restaurant is a restaurant that serves moderately-priced food in a casual atmosphere. Except for buffet-style restaurants, casual dining restaurants typically provide table service. Chain examples include TGI Friday’s and Applebee’s [and Olive Garden and Red Lobster] in the U.S. and Harvester in the U.K.. Casual dining comprises a market segment between fast food establishments and fine dining restaurants. Casual dining restaurants often have a full bar with separate bar staff, a larger beer menu and a limited wine menu. They are frequently, but not necessarily, part of a wider chain, particularly in the United States. In Italy, such casual restaurants are often called “trattoria”, and are usually independently owned and operated.

(The Wikipedia article supplies a fairly elaborate taxonomy of restaurant types.)

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