Also sometimes referred to as chicken Parmigiana, chicken Parmesan is a hearty dish that consists of golden-brown breaded chicken cutlets topped with rich marinara sauce and melted cheese. At restaurants, the dish is also frequently served with penne, spaghetti, or another type of pasta. The allure of this savory delight lies not just in its flavor but also in the contrast between the crispy exterior and tender interior of the chicken, along with the gooey texture of melted cheese and the tanginess of the tomato sauce.
While the roots of chicken Parmesan lie in Italy, the iconic dish is more American than many realize. A version of the dish with eggplant called melanzane alla Parmigiana has existed in southern Italy since the 18th century, but it only started being made with chicken after Italian immigrants brought it to the U.S. The simple reason for this was that chicken wasn't as pricey in America as it was in Italy. While the exact beginnings of chicken Parmesan are unknown, it's believed that the creation was popularized by Italian immigrants on the East Coast sometime in the '40s or '50s.
Today, chicken Parmesan is a culinary staple at many Italian and non-Italian restaurants across the U.S. Ready to find out more about the best places to sample the dish? Check out our list of some of the best and worst chain restaurants that offer chicken Parmesan on their menus, according to customers.
Read more: Frozen Pizzas, Ranked From Worst To Best
Noodles & Company
Noodles & Company introduced chicken Parmesan to its menu in September 2023. It's the chain's first baked entree. The dish is made with chopped-up Parmesan-crusted chicken breast over penne pasta with marinara sauce. The dish is topped with mozzarella before being baked at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for a minute and 10 seconds. And at just $10.95, we can't deny that it's great value.
Noodles & Company's Chicken Parmesan doesn't really look like the classic version of the dish. This is mainly because the chicken breast is already cut up into pieces before the dish is baked in the oven. The menu offering also comes with a pretty uninspiring theme song that goes, "Chicken parmesan, you've got it going on. Just the chicken, and the sauce, and the cheese, and it tastes so great. Yeah, yeah." We are not judging, but...
While the dish has only been around for a brief time, the minimal diner feedback hasn't been exactly stellar thus far. One case in point is a Reddit patron who says, "It's decent but nothing [really] special. Definitely looks better than what it actually tastes like." Another diner takes issue with the meal's preparation, saying, "My chicken was burnt. I would not recommend [it]."
Founded by Giacomo and Gennaro Alaio, who were both born in Naples, Italy, Patrizia's is a mini-chain with fewer than 20 outlets, mostly in the New York area. The restaurant's chicken Parmesan takes different forms. Namely, it can be served with a side of pasta or house salad, in a kid's portion with french fries, and as a part of a chicken Parmigiana panini sandwich. The chicken Parmesan itself is coated in beaten eggs and bread crumbs before being pan-fried, topped with sauce and cheese, and baked.
Patrizia's chicken Parmesan has generated both favorable and unfavorable feedback from diners. On a positive note, the dish has been called yummy and delicious by some customers. However, not all reviews have been glowing, with one patron saying, "[It] was just a cheap breaded cutlet with cheese on it. Mediocre at half the price, robbery at its current cost." Another reviewer was just as unimpressed, commenting, "Three pieces of paper-thin chicken cutlet for the chicken parm dish & covered in burnt cheese."
Buca Di Beppo
Meant for sharing, Buca di Beppo's chicken Parmigiana comes in jumbo sizes for either three or five diners. Made with breaded chicken, the dish comes topped with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and chopped parsley.
Buca di Beppo's take on chicken Parmesan has sparked a variety of reactions from those who have tried it, ranging from applause to disappointment. Some reviewers count the menu item as one of their Buca di Beppo go-tos. Some other happy customers have described the dish as excellent, indicating that Bucca di Beppo makes a reliably good chicken parm. Unfortunately, not all feedback has been as positive, with one diner saying: "So we ordered the chicken Parmigiana which was overcooked and dry [and had] hardly any tomato sauce." Another reviewer also found the parm lacking, commenting, "The chicken Parmigiana was mediocre, dry, and lacked [...] flavor." It seems like if you get the right cook, you'll enjoy Bucca di Beppo's chicken parm, but the chain might have a problem with consistency.
Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano
With just 16 outlets across eight states, Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano has maintained its focus on providing an intimate and specialized dining experience. Despite its limited presence, the restaurant's menu offers three different chicken Parmesan dishes. Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano serves its chicken Parmesan with three-cheese Alfredo rigatoni or as a part of a sandwich. The chicken parm can also be ordered alongside another Italian-American favorite, lasagna. No matter which meal you opt for, the restaurant's lightly breaded chicken breast comes smothered in marinara sauce and an Italian cheese blend.
Overall, Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano's chicken Parmesan has received mixed feedback from patrons, with some complementing its flavorful sauce and others finding the dish bland. For instance, one loyal customer, whose entire family enjoys dining at the chain, says that the sauce offers "the perfect combination of spices." However, not everybody shares this sentiment, with one patron saying, "The chicken parm was pan-seared and lacked any traditional breading. The pasta tasted like they rinsed it in seawater prior to plating."
Patrons aren't in agreement about Biaggi's chicken Parmesan serving size either, with some saying that it's huge and others claiming that it doesn't live up to expectations. For instance, underneath a photo of the dish on Facebook, one diner complained, "I ordered this after I [had] seen this picture because it looked so good. It tasted fantastic but the size was less than half of this picture. Was a bit disappointed."
In a 2023 Mashed poll, 40.52% of 622 readers said that Olive Garden served their favorite version of chicken Parmesan. The Italian-American restaurant serves its regular chicken Parmigiana with two Parmesan-breaded chicken cutlets, homemade marinara, and a blend of Italian cheeses.
Despite its success in our poll, Olive Garden's regular rendition of the dish has garnered a variety of opinions from patrons online. On a positive note, one diner says that the dish was "very good," adding, "I have to say it was probably one of the best chicken Parmesan dinners I ever had." Abigail Abesamis Demarest from Insider also praises the dish for being juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside — a combination that, according to Demarest, makes it a "clear winner." However, not everybody is as enthusiastic about the dish, with one reviewer saying, "I got two skinny pieces of chicken with more breading than meat, marinara sauce, and cheese. It appeared the restaurant got some cheap frozen breaded chicken from a large warehouse and slapped a few things on top."
Romano's Macaroni Grill
Romano's Milanese-style chicken Parmesan is hand-breaded, fried, and served with mozzarella, imported pomodorina, and long and thin strands of Italian pasta called capellini. It can also be ordered as part of the Mama's Trio with lasagna and fettuccine alfredo. While we aren't exactly sure what goes into a Milanese take on chicken Parmesan, Romano's Macaroni Grill's General Manager, Todd Fern, shared the chain's recipe for the dish with LOCAL 12, saying, "We take a chicken breast, we pound it out, we get it real flat [...] We pad it with panko bread crumbs and some other seasoning [...] I put a little pomodorina sauce on there, it's a red sauce imported from Italy [... I also add] some yummy mozzarella cheese and we've got some grape tomatoes that we'll add onto that as well."
The chain's chicken Parmesan has elicited mostly positive reactions from diners, with some praising the dish for being tasty and generously-portioned. On the flip side, some reviewers say that the dish could use more sauce, with one patron writing, "The chicken Parmesan was good. I especially like the angel hair pasta and the Parmesan chicken was huge! My only complaint was [that] there wasn't much sauce for the pasta, so that would be nice to get some extra on the side."
Johnny Carino's offers four different versions of chicken Parmesan. Served with spaghetti and tomato sauce, the chain's signature chicken Parmesan comes topped with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Just as its name suggests, the restaurant's Chicken Parmesan Rigatoni Festival is served with rigatoni pasta drenched in asiago cream sauce. The restaurant's chicken Parmesan can also be enjoyed as a part of a sandwich alongside mozzarella, applewood smoked bacon, tomato, lettuce, and marinara sauce. Last but not least, for huge appetites, Johnny's Combo consists of chicken Parmesan, baked lasagna, and spaghetti with tomato sauce.
In general, Johnny Carino's chicken parm lives up to expectations, receiving predominantly positive feedback from reviewers. One happy diner calls the menu item "excellent," adding, "I'm from an area with excellent authentic Italian food and I was pleasantly surprised at how good the spaghetti and meat sauce and chicken parm is at Johnny Carino's. The chicken has excellent breadcrumb flavoring and is super thick. [...] I'll be back!" Another patron agrees, commenting, "The crispiness of the chicken Parmesan was perfect, non-soggy and [it] was delicious with the cheese and salsa on top." On a less positive note, other reviewers have called the protein in the dish overcooked and dry.
Founded by Michelin-starred chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone in 2011, Parm offers iconic Italian dishes that showcase the chefs' dedication to quality ingredients and culinary craftsmanship. One such dish is the chain's chicken parm served with homemade tomato sauce and mozzarella. For those wishing to shake things up a little, Parm also offers meatball parm and eggplant parm with sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, and fresh basil.
Most diners praise Parm's chicken Parmesan for both its flavor and generous portions. One diner says that while the dish could have come with more sauce, overall it was very good. Another reviewer found the serving too large, jokingly saying, "The chicken parm is served with rotini and both the chicken and the pasta are generously served — a bit too much for my post-Christmas stomach." Another happy diner says that they split the enormous chicken parm with their date, warning that you may have trouble finishing the dish.
Chicken Parmesan has been served at Carmine's Italian for three decades. That's a long time to perfect a dish. Carmine's Italian's oversized parm is served over marinara sauce and smothered in melted mozzarella and Romano cheeses. Best of all, Carmine's isn't at all secretive about the way it prepares its parm, proudly sharing the recipe for the iconic dish on its website for all to enjoy.
The general sentiment among those who have tried Carmine's chicken Parmigiana has been undeniably positive, with many noting its generous size and exceptional quality. One reviewer says that the dish came with two huge cutlets, adding, "We ordered it with the angel hair pasta. [...] We left the restaurant with a full cutlet and almost half of the pasta. They give you so much." Interestingly, one of the only complaints about the dish has been that it's topped with too much cheese — I think we can handle that.
Maggiano's Little Italy
Maggiano's Little Italy was a success from the day it first opened in Chicago, Illinois, in 1991. The establishment's uncomplicated Italian-American recipes served in a family-friendly setting established Maggiano's as a beloved dining destination. Today, with over 50 outlets across the U.S., Maggiano's continues to deliver quality fare in a warm and inviting atmosphere. Among the enduring favorites featured on the restaurant's menu is the chicken Parmesan — a dish made with marinara sauce and provolone cheese served alongside spaghetti marinara.
Maggiano's Little Italy's chicken Parmesan has been a hit with diners who compliment its flavor and substantial portion size. One reviewer calls the dish "beastly," adding that it's huge and comes with a heavily seasoned crispy crust and a subtly sweet marinara sauce. Another patron agrees that the parm is scrumptious, saying, "It's the best chicken parm that I have ever had. The chicken was crisp and the sauce was perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed it!"
Carrabba's Italian Grill
Founded by a Sicilian uncle and nephew duo raised in Texas, Carrabba's Italian Grill still utilizes the recipes they learned at home growing up. One of these is chicken Parmesan, which comes with breadcrumbs, pomodoro sauce, and three cheeses: Romano, Parmesan, and mozzarella. While the standard version of the dish is served with a side salad, there's also the pricier family bundle chicken Parmesan, which is accompanied by bread, a side salad, and a choice of garlic mashed potatoes, penne pomodoro, or sauteed broccoli.
Carrabba's chicken Parmesan is consistently lauded for its taste, with some reviewers convinced that the dish is sauteed rather than deep fried. A case in point is a patron who calls the menu item "The best chicken parmesan ever!," adding, "They prepare it by sauteing rather than deep frying — What a difference!! It was tender and full of flavor. Without question the best I have ever had. I have now been spoiled, deep fried — never again!" Another diner echoes this sentiment, commenting, "Rather than deep-fry the chicken, this chicken seemed coated in bread crumbs and then sauteed. The tomato sauce was chunky, and then covered in cheese. The seasoning was fantastic. [...] There was only one thing wrong with my meal, which is I don't think I will ever enjoy chicken parmesan this much, again."
Read the original article on Mashed.