The Strange Olive Garden Menu Item That You Probably Forgot About

If you want authentic Italian food, Olive Garden might not be the place to go. While many of the menu items have Italian names, it's no secret that the majority of the dishes are extremely Americanized. From the breadsticks to the fettucine Alfredo, even just the concept of putting chicken on pasta or topping everything off with a mountain of parmesan — Olive Garden's food is far removed from traditional Italian cuisine. 

Despite the food lacking authenticity, Olive Garden is still a popular chain to dine at. There are staples that people always come back for, such as the Tour of Italy entrée and the unlimited soup salad and breadsticks. But Olive Garden also keeps customers excited by releasing new menu items from time to time, including the never-ending stuffed pasta in 2012 and the spicy Alfredo chicken tenders in 2019. Most Olive Garden fans will likely recall seeing commercials for these offerings, but there's another menu item that you might not remember: spaghetti pie.

When it debuted, Jenna Bush sized up the dish by asking her Today cohost Hoda Kotb, "Who knew that spaghetti ... had a baby ... with a thing called pie?" To which Kotb, holding the plate up with both hands, replied, "This thing is ... it's dense."

Olive Garden used to offer spaghetti pie

Back in 2016, Olive Garden announced that it would be introducing several new menu items, one of which was spaghetti pie. Spaghetti pie came in two flavors — meatball and chicken alfredo. Both pies called for spaghetti, seven cheeses, and Italian bacon baked into a crust, the only difference was the sauce. One used a meat sauce with meatballs, while the other was made with a creamy chicken alfredo.

The idea of using spaghetti as a pie filling might seem odd, but upon its release, Olive Garden chef Jim Nuetzi shared in an interview with BuzzFeed that spaghetti pie was actually an authentic Italian dish. Nuetzi's claim as it turns out wasn't too far from the truth. There's actually an Italian dish called timpano (or timballo) that's made somewhat similar to how Olive Garden made its spaghetti pie. Like spaghetti pie, timpano has a crust and uses pasta as the filling, however the pasta is typically ziti, not spaghetti.

What happened to Olive Garden's spaghetti pie?

Though most restaurants discontinue menu items because they weren't popular enough, Olive Garden didn't have trouble getting people to order spaghetti pie. When it was briefly available in 2016, it received generally positive reviews, and today, plenty of copycat recipes can be found with a quick google search, proving its popularity. It's likely that Olive Garden already planned for the novelty to only be available for a limited time, and interactions with customers on one Facebook post seem to support this.

In May 2016, Facebook fans began inquiring how long it would be on the menu, to which Olive Garden only responded with vague replies like "We recommend coming in soon so you don't miss out," and "We can get the details for you. When you get the chance, please send us a private message with your email address." Perhaps Olive Garden decided to keep the date under wraps so customers would keep coming despite discontinuing a popular entrée.