An Authentic Chain Restaurant

David, Ryan and I were eating at Carraba’s for lunch last Sunday. We were in the mood for Italian and originally headed out to Kenny’s Italian Kitchen in Addison, Texas. When we drove up, we discovered they wouldn’t be open for another four hours. Apparently, they’re only open for dinner (at least on Sundays) which is stupid. Because — see Kenny, by not being open when we were hungry for Italian at lunchtime on Sunday, you lost out — and so Carraba’s got our money instead! After that disappointment, we headed towards home while contemplating other choices for lunch. It was then that we saw a Carraba’s, which is fine when you’re looking for some noodles and sauce. That sounded good to me and David — and Ryan wanted pizza —  and they were open — so that’s where we went.

We sat, got our drinks and placed our order. We were busy eating bread and olive oil — completely minding our own business — when the man at the table who had been seated right next to us asked, “Is this authentic Italian?”

Well, hell. I mean it ain’t the Macaroni GrillOlive Garden or Kenny’s. Right? It’s a chain restaurant. They’re all chain restaurants. Is there any chain restaurant in the US that truly offers food that is completely authentic to the originating country it claims to represent? Maybe there are. I really don’t know. I don’t ask these questions because I don’t care. The food either tastes good or it doesn’t. I either have a craving for it or I don’t. But then, again, I was brought up on authentic, name-brand canned vegetables including: the sometimes dreaded Veg-All, canned meat (potted, Vienna sausages, deviled ham and Spam), Italian prepared by the Chef — Boyardee that is — and macaroni that hails from a box, which also happens to have cool, glow-in-the-dark, powdered cheese as a main ingredient — and I don’t feel deprived.

 

 

Veg-All Original Mixed Vegetables 29ozImage result for potted meat picsImage result for vienna sausage picsImage result for little devil potted meat

Image result for spam picsImage result for chef boyardee ravioliImage result for kraft mac and cheese pics

So I’m probably not the one to ask that question. I am not a food snob because that’s the way my mom and dad raised me. Anyway, I don’t think the man understood just how absurd his asking this question from a complete stranger (me), while in the middle of a chain restaurant was. The fact that Jose or Amador or Carlos was probably preparing our food and not Giacomo, Guiseppe or Giovanni just added to what I assumed was the obvious answer.

We’re in Texas, y’all.

I mean what if I had answered this man with a resounding “yes,” and then this man found out that his meal came from a box or a can that said “made in Taiwan” on the label? Or what if it turned out that what we were being served was “reproduction Italian” or that it was “based upon Italian?” Boy, would I have felt like a sham and an idiot for leading this man astray with my authoritative opinion.

Or what if I had said no? Would the man have stood up and loudly exclaimed to all within earshot, “Well, that’s it! I wanted authentic Italian and this stranger says it’s not (while pointing at me and throwing me under the bus.) So I’m out of here and never coming back!?” And while he may have left — I mean — me and my family would still be there and we hadn’t been served our meal yet. Ya think I want to eat food that comes out of the kitchen from a place where I just ran off a paying customer with my opinion? I mean, that’s just asking for bad, unseen things to happen to your food.

Of course, there was a good chance that I was overthinking his question. Sometimes I have a tendency to do this. Maybe he just wanted to strike up a conversation. Maybe he really didn’t care about authenticity. But damn, Dude, you have someone you brought into the restaurant with you. Sit and talk with her! She looked embarrassed by the way. I think this guy might make a habit out of doing this sort of thing.

Anyway, I did answer him.

Since I had my mouth full and was in the middle of chewing my olive oil soaked bread when he spoke to me, I just shrugged my shoulders, hands out, palms up. I didn’t try to say anything, I just made the “beats-the-hell-out-of-me” gesture, which I thought was a very Italian thing to do — don’t ask me why — because when I think about it now, that’s probably universal body language —  and, well, it just seemed like the right response for this situation.

Image result for shrug gif

 

Then the man repeated his question as if I didn’t understand him the first time. I was forced to use my words. “I really have no idea,” I told him. “This is like the second time we’ve ever eaten here, ” I finished. I purposely didn’t bring up the fact that this wasn’t our first choice of restaurants. Neither did I relay that we picked this one mostly for convenience. I quickly turned away and had the most engrossing conversation I’ve ever had with David. “Can you believe this weather,” I asked him.

The man then went back to talking to the woman he brought to the restaurant. Thank God! They ordered and got their food, as did we. It was all normal and ordinary again with the momentarily awkward situation over. Our food was delicious and we had plenty left over to take home. As we prepared to leave, the man turned to us again.  He said,”I just wanted you to know that this is authentic Italian. I asked the server, a very knowledgeable young lady, and she assured me they get all their ingredients shipped in from Spain.”

Ah, well, the temptation was just too great! With my carb high in full-swing, I said, “Oh, really! That’s  good to know! But wouldn’t that make this authentic Spanish food, then? Y’all have a good rest of your Sunday!”

The man sat with a dumbfounded look on his face. While he thought about what I said, I saw the woman sitting next to him laugh. For the first time since they’d arrived! He looked like he going to make another remark, so I quickly strode away before he had the chance. “Look, David, it might rain again!” I quickly yelled after my disappearing husband.

 

31 thoughts on “An Authentic Chain Restaurant

  1. I love the authentic Chinese food at Panda Express. Their ingredients get shipped directly from a factory in upstate New York. But I hate strangers in restaurants that ask me about the food. Yes, I’m a fatty. That doesn’t make me an expert. It just means I’m not picky.

    • IKR! I’ve never had the pleasure of eating at a Panda Express, but now I want to see what authentic Chinese tastes like that hails out of a New York factory. We tend to go to PeiWei for no other reason than because my daughter worked there for 7/8 years. See my post
      called “Ebenezer Has Left the Building” at https://www.waywardsparkles.com/ebenezer-left-building/ for more on that. BTW, Allen, are you trying to insinuate that I may have been singled out for this question because of my weight?!!!!!! HOW DARE YOU, SIR! LOL!
      Sigh, just another reason to try and take a few pounds off — so strangers won’t ask me asinine questions about food! Maybe I’ll try your Little Debbie diet that’s worked so well for you!
      Mona

  2. Oh my God. Veg-All. I had almost forgotten about that nastiness until now. I can’t say I’m a food snob other than I’ve watched so many foodie shows that I will loudly proclaim, “Chef Ramsey would NOT approve!” as I heartily eat my meal. My father-in-law happens to be an authentic Italian imported from New York so I did feel obligated to learn how to make homemade spaghetti sauce, only because I don’t think someone with the surname of Romanello should ever serve Chef Boyardee, even if that’s what I grew up with too. 😂

  3. Kat,
    Ah, Veg-all memories! Haven’t eaten that shit in at least 30 years, I bet! Also, I suspect you make amazing spaghetti sauce, Gorden Ramsey approved!
    YUM! 🍅🍅😋

  4. I love reading about food stuffs you get in the states compared to what we get here. We have had spam for years which I like, but none of the others. And, is creamed corn just creamed corn? Is it nice? I’ve never seen it here x

    • Pip,
      Creamed corn! Boy that is another blast from the past! My dad is a big fan. So’s my son, now that I think about it. I need to get a can and make some soon. If you can’t get it in a can, there are several recipes out there on the internet, so you can make your own. I don’t think I know anyone who will turn it down, but I don’t know anyone who claims it as their favorite either. If you do make it, let me know what you think. Btw, so a proper English breakfast includes eggs with beans? That sounds like a lethal combination. Is it delicious or…

        • I’m not going to lie. I love creamed corn. But in El Paso, we had something called “Street Corn” that the street vendors would sell, particularly at carnivals and fairs. It was hot corn on the cob smothered with butter, mayonnaise, and spices (usually paprika, cumin, and sometimes chili powder). I know the mayonnaise part really turns people off, but do not knock it until you try it! I make a version of it with corn removed from the cob, kind of like a casserole. It’s always a hit at my house!

          • Okay, Kat, not gonna lie either — it all sounds good except the mayonnaise part. I’ll stay open but skeptical, how’s that? If you say it’s delicious, I believe you!
            BTW, who knew this whole post would turn out to be so corny?!!!!

          • There is nothing… I repeat nothing… that doesn’t taste better with mayonnaise. I’ve had street corn covered that way and it was pure heaven. And hey, I think I need your casserole recipe.

  5. That was hilarious!
    It’s so odd that he even asked. What that mean? Don’t you have to go to Italy to get authentic Italian food?? Was he trying to impress his companion by betraying his lack of knowledge?

  6. Sarah,
    So it would seem! I have no idea what was going on with this guy or why this appeared to be so important to him or why it didn’t dawn on him that if it comes from Spain that it’s not coming from Italy! Perhaps he thought Spain was in Italy, maybe? It was just a really weird exchange aka fodder to write about. I’m glad you enjoyed it!
    Mona 🤗

  7. I’ve heard of the creamed corn it always sounds a bit sickly to me. But I love corn so I may like it. A full English is sausage bacon, beans, fried egg, black pudding (yuk), and mushrooms. People here only tend to have it as a treat now and again. Else we would all be having heart attacks. Oh, and one more question. What is a corn dog? x

  8. Pip,
    Oh my goodness! You have hit a total trigger with your question about a corn dog! I’ve been toying with an essay about this very subject for quite a long time now (at least 5 years) and now I absolutely have to write this! I will explain in full detail sometime this week. Stay tuned. So what is sausage bacon? I mean we either have sausage or bacon but I’ve never heard of sausage bacon. And beans for breakfast? And black pudding? Is it like a dark chocolate pudding? Is it savory? Is it sweet? Okay, if you write a post about a full English breakfast, I’ll write a post about corn dogs! Deal?

  9. Yes deal Mona. Unfortunately I missed out the comma so it should have said sausage and bacon. Oh and black pudding, wait for it… Its a sausage made with pigs blood, pints of the stuff are pored into the mix with chunks of fat! Not a chocolate square in sight 😬

    • Ew! WTF, Oscar Mayer!!! Who came up with that or thought that would be something good to eat?!!!! And then when whoever did, who decided it belonged on a traditional breakfast?!!!! SHUDDER!!!

        • Ah, we have something in common then. Well, I’m part Scot-Irish. Never have been sure exactly what that means other than the red hair and blue eyes that run through various members of my family. One of these days, I may look into this. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with Haggis. The red hair and blue eyes, that is.

          Mona 🙂

  10. Spam!
    Oh, don’t get me started on Spam. My MIL put it in everything. Spam and eggs, Spam macaroni salad, Spam loaf.
    Coincidence that she named her daughter Pam? I don’t think so….

    • I’m with you on that! Putting “sweet” in mayonnaise-like product is wrong! By the way, do you prefer to be called Rivergirl or do you have an alias or…maybe just River…or…I go by M.L. James when I write, but please call
      me Mona. 🙃

  11. River is an awesome name. And I like that on any given day you can be a raging River or a peaceful River or a go-with-the-flow River. Pretty damn cool!

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