Eating to Live on the Outside: Fazoli's

Fazoli's? Actually, this place should be called Faux-zoli’s because the menu is loaded with faux-talian food. Yup, you guessed it, loads of cheese, meat, and rich sauces. Yum! Get ready for a heaping helping of standard American food—or should I say—standard American “Italian” food.

I grew up eating a lot of Italian food and I can tell you, IT’S NOT ALL PIZZA AND PASTA! For example, my mother grew up in Italy and she’ll tell you, “We mostly ate vegetables with some pasta. Meat was special. We maybe had it once a week and it was usually fish.” So when I read “Fazoli’s serves premium quality Italian food” and all I see on the menu is pepperoni, hearty meat sauces, Caesar salad, and Italian Ice—my head nearly exploded! But despite this mounting pressure in my cranium, I’ll soldier on. So here’s what I would order if someone hit me over the head, threw me into a car, and dumped me off at Fazoli’s.

Okay concession number one—oops, I mean the first menu item I’d order is The Grilled Chicken Panini. And right away I see problems. The panini, it's bread, probably white bread and loaded with olive oil. I’ll stick with it, but it’s a decent-sized concession. Okay, clearly I’m ditching the provolone—I don’t do dairy. Now I’m cool with the chicken, but that would be my meat allotment for the week. Also I’d limit the Lite Italian dressing that comes with it, I have my suspicious as to how “lite” it really is. Hey, on the up side it comes with lettuce and tomato—the standard American source of phytonutrients.

My next two menu selections are pasta dishes. Okay, so I’m already admitting to that concession—hopefully I can run a tight ship from here on out. Fazoli’s gives you an option to make your own pasta dish and they have a couple decent selections to choose from. Personally, I’m going with the Whole Wheat Penne topped with Broccoli. Of course I’d ask if the chef could refrain from drowning it with olive oil. Maybe you could get the olive oil on the side or just season with garlic powder. Fazoli’s also sells pizza, so surely there’s got to be a garlic shaker somewhere. The Minestrone also looks good, but if you check the menu’s nutrition facts, you’ll see it pretty salty. So ordering it entails a pasta and salt concession. It’s a tough sell either way.

Finally—and this shouldn’t surprise anyone—the last item I’d order is a salad. Actually, Fazoli’s offers up six salads, all but two are loaded with standard American salad ruiners; ham, salami, pasta, cheese, and croutons. The Garden Side Salad is probably the best option it’s touted as, “The perfect size with mixed greens and grape tomatoes.” I’d ask the waiter about getting this dinner-sized. The Grilled Chicken salad would also work. It appears to be the same thing as the side salad, but with a piece of chicken on top—how creative. In the end both these options are pretty safe, provided you go easy on the dressing.

If you weren’t able to tell, my level of enthusiasm for Fazoli’s was pretty much nonexistent. Very lame food, drawing from the lowest common denominator of Italian cuisine, not very  nutritious, and very unappealing. To be frank, I wouldn’t eat at Fazoli’s. In fact, I’ll repeat what I told a commenter last week when she asked me to take a look at this abomination called the Heart Attack Grill, “If I was in a car headed to this place, I'd hit the driver in the head with my shoe.” Yeah, that just about sums it up.

Oh, and you know the drill, we want your feedback! Tell us what you might have done differently or what you agree with. Check out Fazoli's menu and let us know how you Eat to Live on the Outside? Leave a comment or email us at
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Comments (21) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Todd Bradley - November 24, 2006 10:40 AM

You clearly have no clue about Fazoli's. It's a pity you didn't bother to even set foot in the restaurant before writing your review. You wrote about waiters and cooks and making special orders, but Fazoli's is a fast food joint. You file in, order at a counter, and they bring your food to your table. There is no waiter, and I doubt anything's custom cooked for a customer's individual preference. Your "review" reads like someone who goes to the McDonald's drive-through and then complains that the sommelier wasn't adequately educated in the subtleties of this year's Spanish moscat crop.

If your "Eating to Live on the Outside" is supposed to provide real value to those of us who are trying to eat healthy in the real world, don't waste our time (and your own) discussing restaurants that obviously aren't even in the ballpark. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a nutrition expert) to figure out that a fast food pasta place isn't the place to go if you're trying to stick to the Eat to Live diet.

Todd Bradley - November 25, 2006 12:45 AM

Everyone who reads this blog already knows that it's hard to eat healthy at many restaurants. There's no need to preach to the choir! What would really be helpful is insightful information about how to follow the Eat to Live program outside the home.

Sara - November 28, 2006 1:06 PM

How about tomato sauce on the pasta with whatever vegetables they have (tomato primavera) and vinegar on the salad (oil and vinegar, but don't actually use the oil). That's what I do when I have to eat "Italian" food when traveling.

Bridget - December 6, 2006 3:46 PM

Have you ever been in a Fazoli's. I have worked at the Fazolis for 7 1/2 years and i can tell you that most of what you said just isnt accurate. It is very easy to eat healthy at Fazolis. There are many meals that are advertised as under 5 grams of fat. We don't use Olive oil on anything, not even the Grilled Chicken salad. Also, we are always willing to special order anything you want. If you want no dressing or mayo on your sandwich we can do that or if you want extra sauce or a different kind of sauce...we can do that too. The lite Italian dress is lite compared to our regular Italian dressing. If you ask you can get a nutrition guide.

Opus - January 2, 2007 4:03 PM

I am glad that I am not the only one that found these comments a little hard to swallow.

In your response to Todd, you mention taking this investigation with a grain of salt. How can you call it an investigation without actually going to the restaurant to see what is actually available? Don't you think that it might have been fair to mention the portion of the menu dedicated to entrees that have 8 grams of fat or less?

Seems a little irresponsible to pass off your totally inaccurate 'opinion' without conducting a thorough investigation.

Jackie Danicki - January 13, 2007 5:22 PM

Jeez, humorless much? People, it's not a taxpayer-financed research project or criminal investigation - it's a blog post which aims to help people make wiser choices when forced to eat in certain restaurants.

Chante - January 26, 2007 10:30 AM

Fazoli's doesnt even use "olive oil". The comment that you made about the chicken panani, and the whole wheat penne isnt accurate... no such thing. There is NO OLIVE OIL in a Fazoli's restaraunt..thats like looking for A1 sauce @ a Steak n Shake. I think their catchy little commercial says it all, "fresh, fast, italian" Fresh it is. They prep their menu items daily. Salads are made to order. The cooking process for the pasta, is just perhaps as if you made it @ home. Cooked in boiling water, with some salt for 8-12 minutes. Then covered w/ some vegetable oil, *not olive oil* the vegetable oil is actually cooked off, because they submerge the pasta in boiling water to heat it, when you order. all orders are made to order.Comment about the minestrone soup, all soups are loaded w/ sodium, read the back of the soup cans. Now, your comment about your meat allotment for the week, the chicken panani only has 2 1/2 oz of chicken on it, so if thats your meat allotment for the week... *shruggs* There are plenty of "meatless" menu items. They do serve Alf Sauce and a Marinara Sauce. Perhaps next week we'll read about how you have compared a McDonalds burger to that of a Ruby Tuesday's burger. Good Day.

janine - March 3, 2007 11:19 PM

Hello Gerry!
I found your comments interesting. I called Fazoli's "home" for nearly five years and would like to educate you if you are willing?
Fazoli's as a concept was hit hard a few years ago with the low-carb craze. As a corporation they responded in a proactive manner, evaluating forcasted food trends. Their response included trans fat free food ingredients/products, including the cookies and breadsticks. Organic chicken, premium sauces and cheeses, and last I knew the only msg in the restaurant was in the ranch dressing. When the Build Your Own Pasta was introduced there were literally hundreds of combinations that were 8 grams of fat or less, and this option catered to the vegan, vegetarian, low-carber or the classic Fazoli's Fan. The red sauces are loaded with lycopene with all its heart healthy goodness. While working there I lost 12 lbs! I admit I swore off breadsticks and customized a few dishes, but I did it!
I love the objective of your blog, and I hope you will take a look at the link below-venture into your nearest Fazoli's location, and maybe it will prompt you to write an additional chapter in your Fazoli's review.*

*p.s. I am a healthy eater and my lunch favorite is RolyPoly-low carb wraps, fresh veggies to order with premium meats and sauces.
I will check in again!

Debra Norris - March 14, 2007 10:53 PM

I am a Diabetic and have Polycythemia, today I recieved an exceptionally good blood report, so I decided to splurge and take exception from my nutritionally right diet. I was craving some Italian food but I was in a hurry to get home, so I decided to go to the drive thru at Fazoli's, I ordered a Chicken Paramesan, and other things for other family members...What a BIG mistake!!!! The Chicken appeared to have been baked last year-and someone kept it warm-far too long-it was like shoe leather-the only thing edible in that dish was the spagetti-no meat-no protein---just spagetti, further the order delivered to us was completely inaccurate-the wrong order was given to us and worse yet some of the food ordered was not included in our drive through service, the young lady waiting on us didn't seem to care, a young man, who may have been a night manager, was terrific and tried to make things right. Thinking all was well-(we had no idea the chicken was really shoe leather in disguise) we took our order and drove home to enjoy a good-quick order of italian food--WRONG---when we got home to eat it was awful. For a quick meal that was supposed to be a treat--it was a bad trick on us-felt like maybe someone above was trying to tell me to stay away from Fazoli's!

Jennifer - March 24, 2007 2:39 AM

I would like to thank Chante, Janine, and Bridget for the nice comments about the place that I still after 5 years call "home". I dont call it home because of the 45-50 hours a week i spend there. I call it home because our people put thier hearts into it. I understand this is just a blog, but i cannot help being offended. Fazoli's spends countless hours improving our menu and in comparison i think we do pretty well. As for the salt comment. I have had two very difficult pregnancies and been on low salt diets. Go to the grocery store! Out of ten plus aisles, one is dedicated to low sodium items. Once again you apparently have not seen our menu. We have had exactly two items that we promoted as low-carb. Our signature item is breadsticks!!! You must not have read Janines comment very well either, she said that many of our selections were below 8 grams of fat and among them were low carb items.

Chris - March 30, 2007 9:01 AM

I found your comments on Fazoli's a bit interesting, as I'm in management for said restaurant. The company does not use olive oil at all in their restaurants. I take that back. Some locations do offer a small bottle for those guests who do prefer it on their salads. For the healthiest menu choice, I would recommend the following:
small whole wheat penne topped with spicy marinara sauce and, if you want some form of meat, add the garlic shrimp (it is lightly seasoned with garlic and herbs and has only 1 oz of vegetable oil per 2.5 lb. batch)
a fresh garden salad with lite italian dressing (25g fat and low sodium/packet)
a Dasani bottled water

This entire meal is low-fat and, actually, quite tasty. I know it's not the best quality Italian food in the market, but it is fast-food. There are definitely items on the menu that are best avoided if you are trying to eat healthy. And Fazoli's is always there to help our guests with whatever special requests they may have. Want plain shrimp? Just ask for it. Want your sauces on the side so that you can portion them yourself? Just ask. Want your broccoli without the butter and herbs? Just ask. Fazoli's is very guest-oriented and nearly every guest request can be accommodated. I agree that you should ask for a nutrition guide. This is something I do with every restuarant I dine at to help me in making the best nutritional decisions I can. So why not give Fazoli's another chance... Just remember to order the breadsticks "dry"!

David - May 2, 2007 3:17 AM

U are funny.

I am glad that everyone that responded to your little rant knew you are wrong. LOL!! And You are, About everything, HA-HA. I have made a career of MANAGING at FAZOLIS for the past 7 years and know everything about the place. By the way, What do you do for a living? How would you like it if you stumbled along somebody on the internet ranting about how whatever YOU do for a living "supposedly" sucks. Even if they really dont know anything about it. IGNORANCE IS BLISS. or is it? you tell me. Why dont you slander crack heads or drug dealers or terrorists or war or abusive spouses or poverty or high taxes or people that purposely have seven kids and work 25 hours at walmart that are fully capable of earning more money but still somehow get a government owned house that they pay 50 bucks a month for and let their druggie kids live there for free, while people like me bust our ass the legit way and are off worse than the poor people that cheat the government and basically steal our tax money. I know why you dont post about real things, because sadly these days people like to bitch about tiny stupid things that happen because people arent perfect. But at least I try to be. How dare you speak like that of a good honest place where people go to earn an honest paycheck. I and others have to deal with people like you all the time at work. Do you have a post about Taco-bell? That food is not at all the real deal. SO WHAT, ITS GOOD. At least post about something that is real and that matters!!!!!!!!!!!

Anon E. Mouse - July 29, 2007 5:40 AM

I work at Fazoli's and find irony in everyone's statements. The best bet is to read the nutrition guide offered by the restaurant. They just took away the wheat pastas, and took trans-fats out of most of their foods.

Also, the meat in the meat sauce is mostly soy. The fattest components on the menu ARE the sandwiches and the bread sticks.

Keep in mind, it's "Italian food, fast." So obviously, stuff will be pre-made, and obviously fillers will be a big part of the ingredients, as I make meatballs from scratch, and I can tell you mine average out to cost about 57 cents a piece using fresh beef and sausage, not three for a dollar as Fazoli's sells them. If it is that cheap, any where, there's a catch - it's loaded down with stuff that's not good for anyone.

Though, ironically, they do use high quality cheeses. :P

Gretchen - July 6, 2008 12:14 PM

I've just discovered your blog and started reading it. There is good information, I must say, but I am sorry, in my opinion, you are fooling yourself. If you think that eating ANY meat is better than eating white flour, etc. I think you are mistaken. Think of the antibiotics that have been put in the chickens who "produce" your MEAT and your EGGS. We do not need meat. don't eat dairy. I was pleased with hearing that. I am a vegan now, but did struggle with dairy. It can be an addiction. Eating dairy AND meat of ANY KIND (yes, fish, too!) are HORRIBLE for the animals health, human, like ours, and theirs, too. What I noticed is disturbing: Where is your compassion. You may be the most healthy people around with the best bodies in town and live to be 120!! Good for you. But what about your mind and soul. Where is the compassion. If you want your soul to be healthy, cut the meat....and quit calling people "porkers." You think you are better than fat people?? You don't know each person individually. People struggle with addictions...and included. I've been there. You have NO IDEA what people have been through or go through in their lives. You don't have to belittle them just because you "have it together in the nutrician department." Just remember KARMA. And as for your choice of rude name calling, "porkers" refers to pigs. Pigs may like to eat, but they, in their natural habitat, are healthy, social, clean, and VERY SMART. Smarter than canines. I hope you get my point. How about starting a blog about being healthy on the outside AND the inside. Start with compassion. Then you have me as a reader for LIFE.

Kendra - July 21, 2008 10:13 AM

I am really upset with myself that I took the time to read your BS. But what is more ridiculous is that you actually took the time to write this.

Joe - July 31, 2008 9:04 PM

I like Fazoli's. I think it is better nutritionally than Burger King or Mc Donalds, but it is not the health food-vegetarian friendly kind of place you probably frequent. Loosen up and live a little. Fazoli's is very decent cuisine for the money. I don't like authentic Italian food, such as contains squid, octopus, fish, mussels, and other seafood items I detest.
To each his own.

Aaron - August 3, 2008 1:12 AM

Congratulations to the employees of the above mentioned restaurant defending their passion.

Lindsay - September 26, 2008 12:54 PM

on our commercial it shows the ravioli wrong. it shows it with marinara sauce, when we serve it with meat sauce. im not sure what you want you do but i thought i would let you know

Margaret - May 20, 2010 2:57 PM

The problem with Fazoli's is the the throw away plates, glasses and utinsels. Why can't they use washable dining ware? It's not like they can't afford a dishwasher. There is already so much waste in society. Come on Fazoli's, get with the program.

rachel - March 17, 2013 8:02 PM

Anyone know what kind of plates fazolis use?

Emily - May 21, 2013 5:27 PM

With the last two comments, Fazoli's is now using heavy, washable plastic-ware to help reduce waste.

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