May 24, 2023 - Food and Drink

Des Moines' south side Italian restaurants react to new Olive Garden

Front of southside Olive Garden

The front of the new Olive Garden at 6157 SE 14th Street, Des Moines. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

Des Moines' south side has a vibrant history of Italian heritage, including the Italian American Cultural Center of Iowa and a 120-year-old Italian grocery store.

  • And now you can add to that list ... Olive Garden.

Driving the news: The national chain opened its third metro location Monday at 6157 SE 14th Street to a lot of hype and excited fans.

So we asked some longtime local Italian establishments to share their thoughts about the newest competitor in town:

🍝 Baratta's: "It's like comparing apples to oranges, our business to their business," Lisa Kruger tells Axios. "If you go somewhere like that, where maybe a 16-year-old is seating you, it's just a different experience."

🥩 Graziano's: "I don't think I can go on record with that," Lisa Graziano jokes.

  • (She later said it's a "shame" that chain restaurants give the wrong implication of what Italian American food should be.)

🍕 Scornovacca's: "More power to them," says Rocco Vacco. "We've been established for 50 years."

💭 Linh's thought bubble: I stopped by during Olive Garden's soft opening and thought it was solid for chain restaurant food.

  • My only gripe: Leftover soup was put in a to-go box. Not a bowl. (Yes, it did spill on the way home.)
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