Dear Marilyn Hagerty, I want to eat at your Olive Garden. I mean the new Olive Garden in Grand Forks, N.D. that you reviewed so warmly in the Grand Forks Herald. Because the Olive Garden where I just ate is not so nice.

Still, I enjoyed reading your review (and so did millions of other people). Actually, it turns out it's not a review at all but a weekly EATBEAT column.



I think I read somewhere that the company that owns the Olive Garden is giving the new restaurants an updated look to make them feel warmer and more inviting, but the one I just went to is kind of tacky and very bright like an old Trailways station or the fanciest restaurant in Timonium. (Marilyn, think East Grand Forks, Minn., except without elk and lunatics running through the streets.)

Darden Restaurants owns the Olive Garden, the Red Lobster, the Longhorne Grill and, for some reason, the Capital Grille. I think they own the whole of East Grand Forks, too, where they make Minnesotans, who, let's face it will do whatever anyone tells them to, taste-test their food.

"This calamari isn't mushy enough," Lars tells them. "This sauce still has some flavor," Helga says. But in that Minnesota nice way they have.

That's why I like the big city because people are mean right to your face.

Actually, to be honest, the Olive Garden wasn't that bad. I mean it wasn't like being waterboarded or listening to Matthew Weiner talk about the next season of "Mad Men." And the people who work there are nice, much nicer than some of the customers who look kind of grim about the mouth.

You hate to think why, except life is hard, especially for the middle-middle class, who no one pays any attention to except to make fun of. And, we should be glad that Olive Garden employs people and is a square deal.

There's an expression we have in Baltimore, "Mind your business. MIND your business. MIND your business" That's what I'm going to do when it comes to the Olive Garden. What they do there is none of my business. If folks like it, that's fine with me.

But the lasagne, Marilyn, Oy!