Food trucks continue to pop up all over America, and no one seems to bat an eye. But when a food truck owned by Olive Garden decides to plop down in a neighborhood known for its generations of Italian restaurants, it seems as if the casual dining chain is just looking for trouble.
Olive Garden’s plan to use a fleet of branded food trucks to show off its new breadstick sandwiches was well documented; the chain has been traveling the country hoping to entice people with free chicken parmigiana and meatball sammies. But this past weekend, the OG courted some controversy by stopping in Boston’s North End neighborhood, home to the city’s Little Italy district.
Needless to say, Italian restaurant owners in the area weren’t pleased. “There is nothing authentically Italian about Olive Garden,” George Mendoza, one of the owners of Monica’s, a North End restaurant, said to Boston.com. “It’s an insult to everyone in the North End selling Italian food for more than 100 years.” Damien DiPaola, owner of Carmelina’s and Vito’s, had a similar take: “It’s just a publicity stunt to say they came to the North End.”
The publicity stunt seemed to work, as the event grabbed plenty of press coverage. NPR even sent out a reporter to see what all the controversy was about. They caught up with one local who actually seemed happy with his free haul. “Awesome. Really good,” North End resident Mark McKenna said. “After eating this, I would eat lunch at an Olive Garden.”
Meanwhile, the truck stunt was just a one-weekend stop: Olive Garden has no plans to open a restaurant in Boston’s North End for now. But beware, other Little Italys around the country: Olive Garden has put you on notice.