Is Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Bowl Worth It? Some Intrepid Diners Did the Math

It's official: the Never Ending Pasta Bowl from Olive Garden is back.
It's official: the Never Ending Pasta Bowl from Olive Garden is back. / John Greim/GettyImages

Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Bowl has been touted as the best deal in the chain restaurant business. The all-you-can-eat-pasta special for $10.99 was so generous, however, that the Italian-inspired eatery removed the offer from menus in 2019, later citing its “negative impact" on profitability. That said, the establishment recently revived the famous promotion at a new price of $13.99—an increase of nearly 30 percent. So is the gut-busting deal worth it? According to The Takeout, it is—especially for regular Olive Garden customers.

The new and improved deal works similarly to the old one: For $13.99, diners get their choice of pasta (fettuccine, spaghetti, angel hair, or rigatoni) and sauce (alfredo, marinara, meat sauce, creamy mushroom, or five cheese marinara). Protein, like meatballs, Italian sausage, or fried chicken strips, costs an additional $4.99 per serving. After cleaning their plate, customers can request another helping free of charge until they’re satisfied. The meal also comes with soup or salad and unlimited breadsticks (which have been a staple of the Olive Garden menu for years.)

Compared to other items served at the chain restaurant, the Never Ending Pasta Bowl is a steal. The Takeout reports that most entrees on the menu cost $3 to $9 more than the all-you-can-eat option, and those prices are for one serving. Olive Garden’s Create Your Own Pasta costs roughly the same as the Never Ending Pasta Bowl, and while it comes with unlimited soup or salad, it includes just one serving of pasta.

The servings of the Never Ending Pasta Bowl are smaller than other pasta dishes at the restaurant—and they’ve reportedly been sized down from what was offered a few years ago—but if you know how to pace yourself, it still offers a lot of bang for your buck.

If you’re used to fresh pasta from your affordable, neighborhood Italian spot, you may not see the value in the Olive Garden promotion. But if you’re a loyal patron of the chain, you can’t go wrong with the deal on your next visit, at least if you come on an empty stomach. Here are more facts about the Italian-themed restaurant you should know.

[h/t The Takeout]