We tried the dish Olive Garden says was so bad they stopped advertising it, and saw exactly why the company made that decision

I tried Olive Garden's new pancake-like Lasagna Mia, and I was utterly confused.

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I tried Olive Garden’s new pancake-like Lasagna Mia, and I was utterly confused.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider
  • Olive Garden rolled out a build-your-own lasagna called the “Lasagna Mia” in August.
  • In December, executives at Olive Garden parent company Darden Restaurants blamed the “Lasagna Mia” for a rough quarter.
  • Twitter users were baffled by the shape of the new lasagna, with some describing it as appearing to look like “pasta pancakes” in the photos advertising the new item.
  • Business Insider went to the Olive Garden in New York’s Times Square to try the new pinwheel-shaped Lasagna Mia and founds its new shape definitely did not work in its favor.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Editor’s note: Olive Garden released a build-your-own personal lasagna in July, Lasagna Mia. On Thursday, the chain said the dish contributed to a significant and unexpected deceleration in sales for the most recent quarter.

“We’re sitting here today admitting that we didn’t hit the mark on Lasagna Mia and we pulled off the promotional advertising to support that,” Darden’s chief financial officer Rick Cardenas said on a call with investors.

Business Insider’s Irene Jiang taste-tested the dish back in August. Here is her review:

This was not the first time the Italian-American megachain has rolled out the Lasagna Mia, which is designed to be a personal, customized serving of lasagna. It had a brief limited run in the summer of 2018 when it took the form of a standard cubic lasagna serving.

This time around, it looked a little different.

What the Lasagna Mia looks like in Olive Garden's product shots.

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What the Lasagna Mia looks like in Olive Garden’s product shots.
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Olive Garden

Instead of the classic cubic lasagna, Olive Garden has decided to go with a pinwheel design that has drawn some less than enthusiastic reactions from the Twittersphere. Several users described the new Lasagna Mia design as “pasta pancakes,” comparing the ribbons of sauce cascading down the sides to maple syrup down a stack of flapjacks.

But make no mistake – no unflattering description of food can keep me from eating it. I had a solemn moral responsibility to give Lasagna Mia a fair trial. It was, as far as I was concerned, pasta until proven a pancake.


The Lasagna Mia comes with a choice of endless soup or endless salad, and of course, all the breadsticks you can fit into your digestive system.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I ordered a Lasagna Mia topped with meat sauce and Ziti Fritta, which are ziti noodles that are stuffed with ricotta, breaded, and deep-fried. Customers can choose from four sauces and six toppings, although only two of those toppings don’t carry an extra charge.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Like a Tinder date who used old photos in their profile, the Lasagna Mia looked nothing like I expected.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It looked less like pasta pancakes and more like an indistinguishable pile of sauce and carbs.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I’d ordered the Ziti Fritta topping because I was curious, but I’m not convinced that a pasta dish needs to be topped with more deep-fried pasta.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I had also ordered meat sauce, but I’m still not sure if there was actually meat in this sauce. I couldn’t find it. It’s possible I was served plain marinara sauce instead.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

My first cut revealed that the pinwheel’s outer layer of pasta was tough and dry. It was difficult to cut through and even harder to chew.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But the cheese inside the lasagna was pungent and savory. And inside, the layers of pasta were soft and spongy.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The cheese and inner pasta worked well with the sauce, even if I had to reach back out to the outer edges of the plate for my tomato fix.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But ultimately I was put off by how tough and dry the outer layer of pasta was. It was even crunchy in places.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Lasagna shouldn’t usually be crunchy.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I was also bothered by the fact that I was never certain of what I was eating at any given moment. Was it cheese? Pasta? Fried ziti?

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I didn’t really care, though. I still ate most of the lasagna.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I did leave a piece of the outer shell I simply could not cut or chew through.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

It wasn’t necessarily good lasagna. But at no point did I want to stop eating. I enjoyed both the sauce and the cheese. But I’m not sold on the pinwheel shape, which makes the lasagna more difficult to eat. Maybe the Lasagna Mia would have been more successful in pancake form. Isn’t lasagna basically a stack of pasta pancakes anyways?

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider