where the writers are
Fun letters: Dear Olive Garden...
  Dear Olive Garden;   I had dinner at one of your restaurants last night and I'd like to share my dining experience with you. I was very satisfied with the level of friendliness we encountered in both the hostess and the waitress. However, we live in Oregon so I don't know that this is remarkable. Because people here tend to be very nice (unlike my home state of California, where people are generally inconsiderate, self-centered assholes with cell phones permanently stuck to their faces (except my friends and family, of course [I love those guys]) and people who work crappy jobs can usually be counted on to be rude and very obviously miserable. Although... I have found that even in California the level of friendliness is directly proportional to the distance from a major metropolitan area. So the people you'd encounter in, say, an Olive Garden in Crescent City, CA would probably be just as nice as the people in the Olive Garden in Lake Oswego, Oregon.    I don't know if you actually have an Olive Garden in Crescent City, CA? But maybe you should consider placing one there because I'm sure you'd have some nice employees. However, if they already have an Italian restaurant in town maybe you shouldn't because it's not nice when a corporate chain puts a local establishment out of business. Although, if the Italian restaurant they have in Crescent City is really good, authentic, high-end Italian food, then I'm sure they'll be OK because they'd have a completely different clientele. Not that your food isn't good. Because it is. I had the new dish with the chicken and shrimp and pancetta and it was quite tasty and probably provided me with a caloric intake sufficient to last me through several days of energy expenditures.    Speaking of pancetta, may I suggest you remove the term "bacon" from the description of the aforementioned dish in your menu? You state that you use "pancetta bacon". This term is both redundant and offensive. It's like calling prosciutto "ham". Or filet mignon, "hamburger". Or canned vegetables, "vegetables". Actually, no. It's more like the prosciutto thing, which is also both redundant and offensive. The other two are just offensive.    Now I know next to nothing about wine so I don't know that I'm qualified to comment on whatever it was that you brought out to our table for a free tasting. But I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted remarkably similar to the ice wine we tasted over the summer at a snooty little wine shop in Victoria, but I'm sure your wine is a small fraction of the cost. Well done. I love a good deal. It's like finding a realistic-looking fake Fendi bag... In 1989. I don't know what fake brand of purse it would be like finding nowadays because I'm not really into fashion anymore (I've adopted the super-casual dress typical of most Oregonians) but I can still appreciate the joyfulness of finding a fake version of something that is normally ridiculously priced. Like the ice wine.    I would also like to tell you that I strongly approve of your unlimited bread sticks/soup/salad lunch deal. Bread sticks:good. Soup: good. Salad could use a little work. The salad accessories are good- the cheese and peppers and tomato slices and onions and olives and croutons are all good. You may want to switch to imported olives, but still, the ones you're using are acceptable. It's really just the lettuce portion that I have a problem with. Now I don't mean to offend you when I say this because it's entirely possible that you just don't know. Sometimes everyone isalluded by a tidbit of common knowledge. For instance,for years I thought it was the "16th chapel". I was in my 20's before I figured out there were not 15 crappier and less famous chapels that preceded it. So anyway, here's what you need to know: Iceberg lettuce is the McDonald's of the lettuce world. Not only is it cheap, but it is regarded as cheap (those are two distinct things) and it has no nutritional value. I think if you're going to go the trouble of providing "vegetables" (iceberg lettuce, along with canned vegetables, fall into the quoted "vegetable" category) and people are going to be thinking they're eating something healthy, you should at least provide them with Romaine.    And finally, I will now come to my point and the primary reason I've decided to write to you today. I would like to make a suggestion in the most politically-correct way possible so I will preface my suggestion with a few positive statements first: I think kids are great. They're cute and rewarding to have (I don't actually speak from experience but as an observer of the friends I hardly see anymore) and they say the darnedest things. So I think it's super great that your restaurant is kid-friendly because that keeps people with kids from taking them to really nice restaurants (where my patience for them is infinitesimal when I'm eating a $50 steak and drinking a $25 cocktail). However, I'd like to suggest that you create small sound-proof sections in your restaurants for people without kids. Perhaps you could model it after the glass-enclosed smoking rooms in the Las Vegas airport?    The thing is, as cute as kids are, they can be quite loud. And although parents are miraculously immune to the piercing screams and other incessant noise-making of their children, most people without children have an undeveloped area in their brains where this immunity is apparently located, which makes for potentially a very unpleasant experience at 6 pm in an Olive Garden. So if you could provide a sound-proof enclosure for child-free people, that would be great. Because I don't think I can eat there again until you build one. I know you might be thinking, "hey you were a kid once too you know", which is true. I'll admit it. But back in the 70's, kids were quieter in public places. We were scared of our parents. When my mother jokingly said, "children should be seen, not heard", she meant it. Nowadays, parents have a more hands-off approach to discipline and a very laisseiz faire, let your child run wild attitude towards their children. Hence, the need for sound-proof dining.    Thank you,
Anna Nimus   PS- One more suggestion: It would be kind of fun if you required your wait staff to properly pronounce all those Italian words. I think it would incredibly amusing to hear them try to roll their R's.   PPS- Can I have a free gift card?