the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Peace Offering to the Lovers of The Olive Garden

If you’ve been blogging for a period of time, you are bound to write a post that rubs people the wrong way.  You will receive angry emails or insulting comments.  I’ve seen bloggers quit because of all the conflict.   I’ve been lucky, mostly because no one really cares about my opinion.   There are a few times I thought I wrote something “controversial,” about race, for instance, and I was up all night, biting my nails, wondering if someone was going to write a comment like:

“You’re a racist pig.  You suck.  Your blog sucks.  And your penis sucks.  I’m never reading this blog again, and I’m telling everyone to never read it again, too.”

Of course, these comments rarely show up when I expect them to.   As much as I try to be a loud-mouth Bill O’Reilly type, nobody ever seems to want to take me on.  The posts that attract the most negative attention are the dumbest posts possible, the ones I wrote in ten minutes while wearing my underwear at 1 AM.  

On December 5, 2005, I described my first experience eating at The Olive Garden.  It was a relatively minor post in my oeuvre.  The “plot” revolved around a moral discussion I had with Sophia over “sharing” some of the salad she was going to order of the chain’s all-you-can-eat soup and salad, since she wasn’t going to eat too much of it herself:

“Sounds good,” said Sophia. We can get one unlimited soup and one unlimited salad, and we can share it. They even give you unlimited breadsticks. I think I’m beginning to like this place.”

“Sophia, I don’t think you understand. Each unlimited soup and each unlimited salad is for one person only.”

“What do they care if we share it?”

“Because then what’s to stop ten people from coming in here and ordering one unlimited soup and one unlimited salad and just sharing it all together.”

“That’s ridiculous. Besides, it doesn’t say anywhere, “no sharing.””

“Olive Garden cannot stay in business if everyone shares the same unlimited soup.”

As you may notice, I was the “good cop” in this story, defending the sacred rights of The Olive Garden to limit sharing.   In the course of the post, I made a few jabs at the restaurant, mostly about the “authenticity” of the chain restaurant’s food and ambiance — but nothing very threatening.  At the time of the post, the restaurant chain had a commercial on TV where some Italian-American family brings their grandma straight off the plane from Italy — to Olive Garden — and Grandma feels right at home, even though I doubt her local trattoria in Sicily gives a guest one of those grimy “buzzers” that vibrate when your table is ready.

Despite it all, I rated the Olive Garden soup and salad as “pretty good.”  I even made a list ranking chain restaurants, and Olive Garden came in as my #2 chain restaurant!

The Cheesecake Factory
Olive Garden
El Torito
TGI Friday’s
Outback Steakhouse
Red Lobster
Pizza Hut

So, the question remains – why all the hate?  For two years now, I’ve been getting comments and emails angry about my opinion of Olive Garden, as if I attacked Jesus himself.  I don’t know who these people are, or WHY they are so passionate about the Olive Garden.

Is it possible that people are finding my post on Google?  It does come in as #8 when you search “Olive Garden.”   But why all the insults?   Are these frustrated servers?  Or is it management doing ego searching?  There seems to be a lot of pent up anger about everything to do with the Olive Garden… and it is all being taken out on me.

This is a comment from TX OG server –

Supposedly we make the rest in tips… but cheap asses come in and run us into the ground with soup and salad refills and then leave a dollar… so we really don’t make enough to live on.   Thanks, it’s assholes like you that don’t tip, that perpetuate poverty among single mothers who can not do anything but wait tables for a living because they didn’t learn any useful skills before the man who lied to them and told them to have kids, up and left and never has to pay child support because the government doesn’t pursue deadbeat fathers if it’s too difficult because he’s out of state and doesn’t work but commits crime and sells drugs for a living. Shitheads!   Why don’t you think about that, and leave a decent tip.   It’s customary and YOU FUCKING KNOW IT.

Good point, TX OG server, but I don’t ever remember saying anything about the tip.

From “Jeff Kennedy” –

Are you serious? You went to the Olive Garden and expected..what?  Anyone with half a brain knows what to expect from a corporate giant in the food industry.   Too many of your cynical observations gave you away as to what kind of critical pessimistic, nitpicker you seem to be.   For instance, how did you know the birthday boy was “bratty”?  And as for the hostess, do you honestly think that a teenager who’s working for minimum wage at the OG is really putting that much thought into table availability times for the HORDES of people who inundate those places daily?  99.9% of the people who go to the OG regularly (who are incidentally NOT on a fact-finding mission) just want to hear that they will be seated “soon” and then they take their place with the other cattle and wait patiently (or sometimes not) until they are called.  What’s going to be your next revelation?  Maybe the fact that NOT EVERYTHING IS A DOLLAR AT THE DOLLAR STORE??  Horrors!!!

You are right.  I cannot know for sure whether that annoying boy was “bratty,” other than my observation.  But what makes you so sure that I am a critical, pessimistic, nitpicker with half a brain? 

From “Fred D” –

This is the Hotel Reality – Check In Please!

I don’t know what people expect when they go to a restaurant.  I expect to eat and have a drink with my meal.  I realize that if you go at a peak time, you will have to wait.  I get the impression that those who are down on a place because they try to make a profit, would be better off at McDonald’s (they make loads of money) and they would probably want to bring their own bottle of Skrew Kappa or Riunite in a brown paper bag and pour it into their water glass – no servers to oversee the sneaky deed. 

Can someone please tell me what Skrew Kappa is?  Do they serve this at The Olive Garden?

From Josh –

sigh @ you… first of all… if you’re going to write a blog, at least attempt to be responsible and don’t lie or exagerate to make a point.   The soup is not more than 3.95 by itself in any price bracket throughout the country and the salad is 4.95.   The soup & salad is 6.95 at the most for lunch, lower when on promotion.  The OG has tried hard to maintain this extremely low price because it knows its guests value it and it wants something for everyone. and do you go to buffets and pay for one person… grab a plate and give it to your friends? cheap ass….

“If you’re going to write a blog… don’t lie or exaggerate to make a point.”  HA HA HA, that made me laugh for ten minutes!

And this one, from two days ago, I deleted because I wasn’t sure if it was anti-Semitic or just crazy.

From Jose “Jerkoff” –

Olive Garden is great. At least the employees are forced to be clean and presentable.  I ate at a Kosher Italian restaurant in Los Angeles.  It was filthy, weird and they made me buy an extra cup to share a pot of hot tea.  So all restaurants are about selling, wake up.

I know that restaurant, Jose.  Your problem is that the weird staff probably put you in the “non-Jewish” section of the restaurant.   We get free tea flowing constantly at our table!

Let me just come out and say it — I don’t hate the Olive Garden.  There are plenty of targets that are closer to my heart.  Have you ever actually eaten dinner at IHOP?  Now that is disgusting!  The sausages at Denny’s?  Taste like metal!  The burgers at Carl’s Jr.?  Greasy and the buns are flaccid!

I’m sorry if you hate working at Olive Garden so much.  I try to always leave a 15% tip, even 20% if you bring me a second basket of breadsticks.

Since 2005, I’ve been to Olive Garden a few more times.  We have one nearby, at the mall.  It’s decent enough for a quick meal before the movie.  Let’s be honest, their Italian food is as authentic as the “bagel breakfast sandwiches” at Burger King are Jewish.  Italian food is my favorite cuisine, and Queens has some of the best Italian restaurants around, so I am a harsh critic of Italian food.  I have spent years complaining about the mediocre food at most REAL Italian restaurants in Los Angeles.   I DO NOT go to Olive Garden for a real Italian meal. 

However, if I have insulted you, Mr. Olive Garden, please accept my apology.   I hope that these emails are coming from frustrated servers and not from your main office.  I’ll save my rant about your overcooked pasta for another post.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  The Final Chapter of the Closet Trilogy

Two Years Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Neilochka Girls


  1. plain jane

    You G*!#@!& F*@%ing misogynist. What makes you think it is MR Olive Garden, why couldn’t it be MS Olive Garden.

    HAHAHAHAHAH–just jokin’

  2. Sarcomical

    oh my god, are you serious???

    people have so much time. so, so, so much time. and the energy? to actually search for articles and/or blog postings about the olive garden?

    obviously, i am not making proper use of my time on the internet.

  3. scarlet hip

    As a former professional chef, I am offended to see the words “Olive Garden” and “restaurant” in the same sentence.

  4. Los Angelista

    Wow, weird that you get such strong opinions on the Olive Garden. Do folks own their stock or something? Stock in olive oil like the Corleones?

    I’m sure if I ate there more often, my taste buds would be numb and I’d be twice the size I am now. I feel like I need to be rolled out of there even if I only eat the soup and salad.

  5. Kyra

    I like OG, infact it was where my husband took me before he proposed (because we were broke – that was high-steppin’ for back then!) But I think everyone has their right to whatever opinion on whatever restaurant, and that you should NOT appologise for the post or any fragment that ticked people off. I think people surf the net HOPING to be offended, you just fit the bill for some of the people.

    And now I want bread sticks. Gah!

  6. better safe than sorry

    we don’t have the og here anymore, i think it went bankrupt this side of the border, not really sure. my favorite “chain” that didn’t even make your list is swiss chalet, but maybe you don’t have that one there. it’s all about the dipping sauce for me.

  7. Dave2

    I totally love IHOP any time of day, and am gravely offended that you should think they’re dinners are substandard. YOU try making a Stuffed French Toast Combo and see how far YOU get! Keeping that cream cheese inside of the French toast is not easy! Those chefs at IHOP are geniuses. GENIUSES I SAY!!!

  8. Geeky Tai-Tai

    I liked that second video. I wonder what kinds of emails you’ll get now? (heh)

  9. Juliness

    Oh my goodness, I don’t think I can handle all this drama surrounding the OG. For some unknown season my husband adores the place and without fail suggests it as an option when we go out to dinner. Me, not so much. But holy cow, I never thought a chain restaurant could generate this much controversy.

  10. srah

    “If you’re going to write a blog… don’t lie or exaggerate to make a point.”

    That part cracked me up. Without lies and exaggeration, I wouldn’t have a blog at all.

  11. sizzle

    2005? man, i’ve been reading you for years! 😉

  12. OMSH

    OG is to Italian what Tex Mex is to Mexican.

    And? I don’t have tasty buds, I eat it all.

    — Off to eat my breakfast sauerkraut croissan-wich.

  13. Hilly

    As I’ve said before…it’s the fucking Olive Garden! You would think people would have something better to worry about like the world peace, curing cancer, going to a therapist to learn how to stop being an internet troll….

    Oh wait, this is supposed to be a peace offering, isn’t it?

  14. nabbalicious

    I’m offended that Chipotle isn’t in your listing of the top chain restaurants, you racist! If you’re going to have a blog, you’d betta recognize, fool.

    (Also, I had no idea people got this worked up about OG. Seriously? I do like their bread sticks, but I wouldn’t engage in fisticuffs, verbal or otherwise, over them.)

  15. Neil

    Nabbalicious, I know you love Chipotle like your own child, but that is more “fast food” than a “restaurant” in my categorization.

  16. pia

    That is hysterical and what I expect of people on the Internet

    I lived in Riverdale, The Bronx for awhile and thought The Olive Garden was one restaurant on Eastchester Avenue as I saw the commercials on a local cable station

    I have eaten in The Cheesecake factory four times and the rest nada–except for Benhnina many times.

    Think I will be learning America soon.

  17. Jennifer

    My goodness. It’s amazing how easy it is to piss off the psychotics. Bet you’ll leave a bigger tip next time cheapo!! Love the video!

  18. Chantel

    Oh my god, I can’t beleive that people have this much time to heckle satire. I hate Olive Garden too and the Cheesecake factory. Why would anyone eat at a place with “Factory” in the title.

  19. Scarlet

    I love how passionate those commenters were. WOW! They LOVE Olive Garden.

  20. melanie

    what is it about you that brings out the hate? I mean. that is ridiculous!

    I these people aren’t getting laid nearly enough. whats your thoughts?

  21. Neil

    I have this feeling that these may not be servers. What server is so passionate about his crappy job? I wonder where the Olive Garden HQ is located, and I should check the stats.

    And yes, most people aren’t getting laid enough. It’s still no excuse to be rude.

  22. Whit

    I haven’t been to an Olive Garden in years. I used to love them back when I also loved such highbrow fare as wine in a box and instant coffee.

    They’re like Denny’s but with the Rat Pack playing. Mostly Joey Bishop I think.

    Sure, the food is edible and reasonably priced, but nothing to stir the passions of the Google Nation. In theory.

  23. butterfly

    I thought perhaps that guy was talking about Grappa and he just couldn’t spell…but alas, (sadly) I found this: Screw Kappa Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2005 — it is a real wine with a horrible name, with I’m guessing, a “screw cap”…*shudders*

    Just for the record, no self-respecting Italian would ever consider OG a real Italian restaurant. The food might be tasty in a generic, fast-food, loosely-inspired-by-Italian way, but you’d better think twice before bringing Nonna there after a long flight from Italy (unless you want her to go home early). But then again, Neil thinks I’m a fancy-shmancy snob from Westchester…so there’s that. ;-D

  24. TRO

    If not getting laid is an excuse for being rude there are millions of married guys walking around rude as hell right now . . .

    But I digress.

    OG is good for a quick lunch of salad and breadsticks and not much else. You are too kind. But if dissing them will bring readers to my blog, OG is gonna get dissed BIG TIME soon.

    Of course, I will have to actually EAT in one which I haven’t done in what, maybe eight years.

  25. Nance

    Olive Garden is like Taco Bell: they make a bunch of dishes with the same basic ingredients. It’s not unforgiveable, but it’s not a Mecca for fine dining, either. I rank it with Bob Evans. But I don’t eat dinner there, either.

  26. abbersnail

    Wow. Just… wow.

    I especially liked the bit about “IF YOU HAVE A BLOG…”
    Dude. It’s a blog. We don’t write as though we’re portraying fact. I cannot imagine that anyone would consider any blog to be the definitive source of truthful and irrefutable information on any given subject. If such a person does, in fact, exist, I fear that the public school system has failed horribly. Not that most of us would disagree on that one, either. I’m just saying.

  27. V-Grrrl

    Yeah, I can write a post about gays that generates a limited and civil discussion, but when I write about having a bad day, I get attacked for my inferior coping skills and my bad attitude and get lectured about the price of happiness and how I want it ALL and blah, blah, blah. I wish I were joking.

  28. nabbalicious

    It’s GOOD FOOD FAST. That’s it. I’m boycotting your blog, mister.

    I guess it’s no surprise that people are so nuts about OG, when you think about it — it seems like anytime I’ve gone to one (Grandma goes nuts for the place), there’s always a 90-minute wait. I WISH I were kidding. Only a person dumb enough to wait that long for very average food is also dumb enough to send hate mail to anyone who doesn’t agree.

  29. fringes

    I’m willing to bet the comments on your post “why women don’t date short men” is up to 750 by now at least. And remember the briefs v. boxers question? I think I saw your blog cited as a source on the topic on CNN the other night.

  30. wendy

    I’ve never been to Olive Garden…

    That clip is too funny…

    So what is your favorite REAL dinig establishment in the LA area?

  31. Bec

    As happens quite often when I come across things that mean nothing to good ol’ British me, I Google to learn. On the OG site I found this:

    “Our purpose is Hospitaliano!, our passion for 100% guest delight”

    I want to eat there now. I want to experience 100% guest delight! Although, from what I’ve read here it doesn’t sound overly delightful…

  32. Caron

    Do we expend so much energy discussing the merits of OG because other issues in the world, things that desperately need our attention and concern are just so overwhelming? The cost for the war is up to 1.9 TRILLION dollars. I don’t even know the word for whatever counting term comes after trillion.

  33. Killer

    I once wrote a post about me winning in the Olympics only if they have beer drinking category. I happened to mention I could possibly win at that Trampoline jumping event.

    I got a lot of angry responses about making fun of the Trampoline event. It was only one sentence used as a joke, but it really set people off.

    I feel your pain.

  34. Pearl

    That 2nd video clip is P.E.R.F.E.C.T.
    It’s as if MAD-TV made it just for you and your posts!

  35. teahouseblossom

    Hey, I actually met a friend for lunch in the Olive Garden in Times Square once. And we’re both New Yorkers. But hey – I really dig the food there! It gets knocked, but it’s quite tasty. And my favorite chain is Houstons. Ranked #1 by Consumer Reports.

  36. Michael

    Dang that is weird, only been to the OG once and didn’t think it was much, certainly not the huge lines outside to get in. They were probably all there to share the unlimited soup and salad and screw the wait staff out of tips!

  37. kristen

    Olive Garden’s breadsticks are da bomb.

  38. Karla

    I said it in the comments section of your original 2005 post, and I’ll say it again now: I loves me some OG. Fuck everyone who doesn’t. No, really. I’ll have anonymous sex with everyone who doesn’t like it. I don’t know what point it’ll prove, but it’ll give me something to do.

  39. Caryn

    This is the best: sigh @ you How can you live with yourself, Neil, now having been sighed at. Can you feel the crushing shame yet??

  40. savia

    That commercial makes me twitch. If I took my Nonna straight off the plane to the Olive Garden, she would probably throw the salad, breadsticks, pasta and soup at the waiter, and then chase him around the restaurant with a shoe, all the while screaming obscenities in Italian until they let her in the kitchen to cook some real Italian food.

    My Nonna rocks. (Though she’s not as hot as my cousins.)

  41. Phillip

    Ok…let me break it down. I am an Olive Garden Employee, I happen to be a Server or Waiter, see they want us to say Server now because it is apparently socially correct. Anyways, I F**** hate the Olive Garden. I walk in to work thinking great I have to deal with a bunch of morons today. Both the people that sit at my tables and the people I work with. Now sometimes I get really nice people at my tables and it is actually fun to talk to them. To the people who order soup salad and bread sticks, why don’t you just make a salad at home with some soup. It’s not that I don’t like the Customers oh sorry the “Guests” that come in and order the SSandBS it’s when they want a refill right after they’re done. Do they see that we run around like lunatics – no – do they think oh he has 3 other tables that are just as needy as I am – no – So I am curious what do they see. It terms of you eating at Olive Garden. I Loved your post. I thought you were being kindof ridiculous when you were afraid of sharring the salad, because we don’t give 2 Sh***s about you sharing a salad, well some of us are a little anal retentive. I just hate hearing all of the stupid complaints like, ” I din’t get my refill of coffee right after I finished this one,” on and on. What people need to start doing is realizing that Olive Garden is a chain resturant, better then McDonalds but not by much. If you want Italian food go somewhere else.

  42. Corten

    I might have to work at this place. I hope the people there are cool.

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