Sinatra was blaring, bread sticks were delicious, and the salad plates were cool to the touch. Olive Garden! It was weeks before my junior prom. My mom was generous enough (and crazy enough) to escort Tracy and I to Salisbury, Maryland. We were looking for the best prom dresses at the cheapest prices. We spent hours looking through every store with a formal rack. When it comes to The Eastern Shore, the Virginia half had proms that trailed a few weeks behind those of Maryland. This was good for clearance prices but also slim pickings. At times, you felt that you were better off to drop those dresses and search for Jimmy Hoffa’s body. Finding his old rickety skeleton would have been less complicated than finding a dress you liked that wasn’t a size zero or a size fifty two.
Hours later, Tracy and I had both purchased dresses that made us happy. We also had tons of fingernail polish, awful jewelry and shoes. My mother probably could have used a stiff drink, but we talked her into Italian food instead. It was truly a treat to be out of town and have access at Olive Garden.
A hostess guided us to a booth, and a lovely waitress brought us our sodas. We had planned this meal all day. We would have bread sticks and salads with that amazingly simple dressing. I couldn’t stop talking about the Seafood Alfredo. On the rare trip to the big city of Salisbury, that was my number one go to.
We knew exactly what we wanted… until…
“Hey ladies, how you are doing today?”
An employee who wasn’t are cutesy waitress appeared magically at our table. This man was a good looking. He had dark hair pulled back in a ponytail and a well groomed goatee. His voice was like velvet. He was Olive Gardens secret weapon.
“Fine.” We said in a unison that could be described no other way than cheesy admiration.
“I’m going to be your waiter this afternoon.”
Wait, where did the cutesy waitress go, WE DIDN’T CARE! Our new waiter was a frickin’ gorgeous.
“I just wanted to let you guys know that we have some great appetizers on the menu. Did you guys think about enjoying appetizers today?”
“No, we didn’t.” We leaned in closer to hear all the juicy details of … appetizers.
He knelt down so he could look us directly in the eye as he described each one. “We also have calamari with marinara sauce. And, we have my personal favorite, stuffed mushrooms.”
“I love stuffed mushrooms.”
“They are my favorite, too.”
“Stuffed mushrooms are wonderful.”
Yup, that was us. Going right along with that stuffed mushrooms propaganda.
“Would you ladies like to try one of those.”
“The stuffed mushrooms,” times three.
“Excellent choice! Are you ready to choose your entrees.”
He took all of our orders and said he would be back shortly with those amazing stuffed mushrooms.
“He is hot!” Tracy exclaimed!
We were all giddy with our new waiter, even my mother was in on the action.
Those stuffed mushrooms were, well they were… They were awful. I don’t know if they were expired or had a bad case of freezer burn, but they were possibly the worst appetizer I had ever dined on in my whole life. They saw us coming in and they knew that we would gladly take the most unappetizing appetizer. All they needed was the right waiter to smooth talk us into that trash. We took the bait. Hook, line and sinker.
There’s only one way to get the taste of improperly prepared fungi out of your mouth. That is massive amounts of Coca-Cola. Tracy guzzled down each coke in less than ten minutes. She would then hand it to me and I would use her straw to make the worst slurping noise on Earth. Our waiter would come running just as I was sliding Tracy’s empty coke glass to her.
“Can I get you another refill?”
“If it’s not too much trouble.” Not to go all early 90’s on you, but gag me with a spoon! Tracy was a bad ass bitch back in the day… here she was with this little pleasant voice, ‘if it’s no too much trouble’. That’s a lovely dress you’re wearing, Mrs. Cleaver.
Fifteen cokes later, we had almost cleaned our plates. I was jamming the last bite of Alfredo noodles in my mouth when our waiter entered our dining section.
“Is anyone hot or is it just me?”
Fucking lost it. A chunk of noodle blew out of my nose. Tracy’s cackle of a laughter bellowed out and caught the attention of every patron in the restaurant. My mother covered her face, either of embarrassment or because she may have blown something out of her nose as well.
We left Olive Garden that day with prom dresses, a great story to tell and Tracy with an unrelenting bladder the whole way home. To this day, anytime I see stuffed mushrooms on a menu I can’t help but giggle. We were snookered good that day proving sex sells… even if it is as simple as appetizer.
Prom 1997 Left to Right, Erik and Tracy, Me and Porkchop, Terri and Stevie