Not too long ago, we featured a list of five reasons chain Italian restaurants get it wrong. And, while it’s difficult to argue that many of the best-known Italian chains aren’t serving up some highly bastardized cuisine, it’s also unfair to discount them as not being worth your time. Ruling out all chain Italian restaurants because they “get it wrong” is sort of like boycotting Tex-Mex because it’s not true Mexican. It’s a totally different animal all together, and under the right circumstances, chain Italian can definitely serve a purpose. So, in defense of chain Italian restaurants everywhere, here are six reasons they’re not all bad.
1) You Know What You’re Getting
There’s nothing quite like ordering a dish you’ve already had about 20 times. The menu is just a formality as you glance over a list of items you have no intention of getting and settle in for an order of the usual. There might not be anything exciting about it, but it’s safe, decent and rarely disappointing: it’s the culinary equivalent of an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.
2) It’s Something Everyone Can Agree On
Dining in large groups can be a major pain in the ass, and as a rule, the larger the group, the less adventurous your meal will turn out to be. Never fear, it’s chain Italian to the rescue. It really doesn’t matter who you are, how picky you are or what weird dietary restrictions you have, there’s pretty much something for everyone. It might not be mind-blowing, but it’ll usually keep everyone happy.
3) They’re Pretty Affordable
Hand-crafted pastas, extravagant wine lists and an authentic experience are all well and good, but you’ll usually end up paying for it when the check arrives. On the other hand, running up a hundred dollar tab for two people at the Olive Garden would take some serious effort. There’s a reason these chains are wildly successful, and it has to do with being easily accessible to a large amount of people.
4) Extremely Kid-Friendly
If you’re bringing the kids along for a nice family dinner, there’s a definite upper limit to how nice you’re going to want your dinner to be. Crying infants and rambunctious little ones are best left at home if you’re planning a night at an authentic and upscale Italian eatery. However, at the chains you’ll be greeted with kids menus and crayons to satisfy the children while you aggressively sip wine and wish you were dining somewhere else.
5) Totally Unpretentious
Although it’s not always the case, some of the more authentic restaurants can be a bit stuffy. With high-quality food, carefully constructed plates and constantly changing seasonal menus, there’s a higher likelihood you’ll occasionally feel a tad out of your element. In contrast, it’s hard to feel like a fish out of water when the couple at the table next to you is wearing matching Washington State hoodies.
6) Easy to Avoid
The best part about chain Italian restaurants is that they’re all well-marked. If you don’t want a chain experience, it should be pretty easy to steer clear and find your Italian food elsewhere. No one is claiming chain Italian is the be-all and end-all of regional cuisine, but it serves a purpose and a lot of people actually like it. If you don’t, then just stay away.
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