Like Irish pubs and Chinese takeouts, you’d be hard-pressed to find a moderately-populated town without an Italian restaurant. And for much of the country, that Italian restaurant is a chain.
Needless to say, Italian cuisine is one of the most popular types of food in America. Because seriously, what’s not to like? Heaping bowls of pasta, comforting and hearty sauces… it’s comfort food at its finest and it also allows for lots of creativity. Just like Chinese food has adapted to suit American palates, Italian food has also changed since it was first brought over by immigrants more than 100 years ago. For example, spaghetti and meatballs are a completely American invention; in Italy, the meatballs (called polpette) are eaten on the side as a separate dish.
But while the massive portion sizes and creative interpretations of Italian cuisine served at these restaurants might make native Italians wince, there’s certainly a home for chain Italian restaurants in the American culinary landscape, and there’s one fact you can’t deny: the majority of their offerings are hearty and delicious. While they all offer traditional red-sauce fare like lasagna and ravioli, the chefs have the freedom to create entirely new menu items, and many have become classic standbys at their home restaurants.