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Jun 16, 2009 11:09 AM

Restaurant substitutions-similar experiences?

Recently went to a new restaurant in town that has taken over a location previously occupied, but vacant for awhile, of another pizza/pasta place. Different owners, different name. Saw a special pizza listed, something like a white pizza with zucchini, fresh tomato, mushrooms and onions. Asked the server if we could have the pizza, hold the onions. She pointed to a notice on the menu which said "No substitutions". We're not talking about a high-end degustation place. She said we could order the white pizza and add zucchini, fresh tomato and mushrooms. ??? When I asked her what the difference was, she shrugged her shoulders and repeated "No substitutions". I don't know if there was a price difference either way (shouldn't be and really didn't matter), but I was bewildered. Kind of reminded me of the famous diner scene with Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces", if anyone remembers that. Anyone ever have a similar experience? Seems like 99% of the time, most places will be accommodating for any omissions, inclusions, especially if something is made a la minute like a pizza. Keep in mind, this place is just starting their business; I realize they want to set their own rules, but it didn't seem like a good way to make a new (and hopefully returning) customer welcome.

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  1. I've had the situation more often with sandwiches. I understand that there are certain types of sandwiches that are made in bulk in advance, but I'm talking at restaurants where the sandwich is likely made after you order it. Is it really that hard to remove raw onions from a sandwich? At one restaurant in a large resort hotel, I just ended up leaving because of the rule.

    1. There is a pub in LA that is well known for its burger. It is also well known for its no substitutions policy. The burger comes with arugala, blue cheese and grilled onions on top. I took a friend who keeps "light kosher"- by which I mean, she simply tries not to mix meat and cheese.
      We asked them kindly leave the blue cheese off the burger. "Nope."
      The cheese is on top of the arugala, not grilled onto the burger! Hard to believe it would be that hard to simply not place it on the sandwich...
      Oh well, lesson learned, pub avoided in the future. There are better burgers in town anyway.

      1. There's one restaurant we go to occasionally that serves salads, fish, pasta and sandwiches. It's a casual cafe and pretty well priced. We went for dinner once, and I ordered the pasta special which was a veggie sauce over spaghetti. The waitress refused to switch the spaghetti for a short cut of pasta, even though the pasta was being cooked to order. With any other pasta dish they'll do it... just not with the special.

        Another place I go to for lunch has a salad bar that's the "toss your own type." The price includes greens and 3 toppings. I picked up a tricolor lettuce blend, and asked for broccoli and double portion of carrots. They looked at me like I was a psycho.

        1. She was just a dimbulb. that is not a substitution it was a deletion. She should have asked the owner if in doubt - but that would have required walking and talking and then more walking and talking. Sigh. Poor her. They just do not want people saying "Can I have the white pizza but not with zucchini. Instead I want sausage and instead of onions I want anchovies..."

          3 Replies
          1. re: Sal Vanilla

            That was my point that was confounding-not a substitution, but simply a deletion, or rather-don't add the last ingredient. Thinking, as such, seems to throw many people into a state of paralysis.

            1. re: markabauman

              Yeah, I stand by my dimbulb assessment. Or maybe it is more appropriate to say she was not the sharpest pizza cutter in the drawer. Her dough was only half risen. The Bertoli exceeded the expiration date.

              Gosh I need to get a life.

            2. re: Sal Vanilla

              I'm with SV on this......the waitress is poorly trained.

              I used to have a similar type experience at a very popular Pizzeria here in Bergen County, NJ. ....the problem with item ingredients and the final price charged. The place has a specialty pizza on the menu consisting of Fresh Mozzarella, Ricotta, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Fried Eggplant. The price listed for this was $13.00 on the printed menu.....however, when they rung up the pizza on their computer/documentor, instead of having a price look-up(PLU) dedicated for this menu item, they rang in pizza, with the four items separately and the total of the pizza before tax came to a total of $14.00, a dollar extra........when I questioned the discrepancy, the reply's only a dollar, I'm sorry or anything similar to that effect. This happened three I had to write the place off out of principle.

            3. My ultimate and only 5 Easy Pieces moment came some time ago at a city hospital cafeteria breakfast. Due to allergies and sensitivities, I do not drink orange juice, milk, or tea or coffee, so my usual breakfast beverage there was water. One morning they changed from fill your own glass/cup to serving from behind the counter. We were drinking too much milk or oj, I guess. I asked for an empty glass or cup so I could get water from the fountain. They refused. I explained. Refused again. I had been up all night and was in no mood for such foolishness. I asked for a cup of tea. Received it. Poured the tea out on the serving case and walked to the water tap with my cup. Victory.

              4 Replies
              1. re: therealdoctorlew

                Just because a service person can't think independently shouldn't be an excuse for poor behavior on another's part.

                "Poured the tea out on the serving case...." hmm congratulations on your victory?

                  1. re: therealdoctorlew

                    Your 5 easy pieces mention made me think of dirty Harry "nobody eats ketchup on a hot dog"