Burger King rolled out a new menu item this week: the Italian Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwich. The sandwich is essentially a chicken parm, with a slice of mozzarella and some marinara sauce promised between two of BK’s new “savory” buns. As The Takeout previously reported, a chicken parmesan sandwich is not new for Burger King, who first offered the item as early as 1979. After a seven-year hiatus in the 2010s, the fast food chain brought back its Original Italian Chicken Sandwich in 2021. But this latest 2022 iteration has made some tweaks and is part of a large, expensive rebrand for the burger chain.
As a proud Italian-American, few things bring me as much joy as chicken parmesan, a beautiful creation of immigrants that spits in the face of classic Italian cuisine. And Burger King has toyed with these Italian-inspired meals since the late ’70s, not just via the Italian Chicken Sandwich but also a short-lived Veal Parmesan sandwich. Talk about something squarely at the intersection of “yikes” and “yum.”
But back to 2022, where Burger King is trying very hard to figure out its chicken-based menu. The brand axed the short-lived Ch’King line of chicken sandwiches, which have transformed into a similarly diverse array of Royal Crispy Chicken sandwiches, among which the Italian joins its compatriots like Bacon & Swiss and BBQ.
I wanted to love the new sandwich, mostly because I always am in the mood for a chicken parm. (When will a fast food chain decide to corner the market on a decent chicken parm?) And really, Burger King’s offering is not bad. As with all other chicken sandwiches, customers receive a full piece of white meat chicken, not some ground-up mess inside a patty. The cheese and sauce, however, were a bit lacking. I want more marinara!
I also bought a standard BK chicken sandwich for comparison, and I must say that for all the pomp separating these two sandwiches they are more alike than they should be. The toppings don’t seem to make the sandwich—the chicken does. This isn’t a bad thing. It is, after all, a chicken sandwich. But when I bit into the Italian, after my brain momentarily lit up after detecting a hint of marinara, the sandwich pretty immediately reverted to tasting like any other poultry offering on the BK menu.
Is it a half-hearted attempt? I’m not prepared to be that judgmental. In a pinch, the Italian does hit on that classic chicken parm gestalt, that salty, cheesy, gorgeous monstrosity. Living in Los Angeles, where quality Italian food is (surprisingly) limited, I could see this sandwich being my quick fix for when I need something that vaguely reminds me of a parm. But it won’t satisfy that itch for very long. Burger King, I’d love a piece of chicken drowned in marinara sauce, not dabbed with a polite spoonful. As it is, this sandwich just doesn’t fully deliver the necessary punch. It’s good, not great.