The Story of Buca di Beppo & One Picky Eater


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I’m a picky eater.

I prefer to avoid meat, wheat and dairy.

Going to a restaurant, unless they cater specifically to vegan or wheat free customers,  I find it is often hard for me to dine out without making adjustments to my meal.

It’s been several years of treating myself as a science experiment to get to this point of finding what foods make me feel good versus what make me feel like poop.

I’m the one who will give the waiter or waitress a novel of substitutions on a meal.

I always feel bad and apologize about 10 times throughout the meal because I’m afraid they are going to spit in my food for being difficult.

Yes, I’m the annoying customer. I’m always nice about it (I’d never be a jerk, of course).

But, I don’t want to get a stomach ache from what I eat so all of these changes are necessary.

A recent company holiday party was held at Buca di Beppo. I had never been to this restaurant before, simply because mostly everything they serve contains meat, wheat and dairy.

I wasn’t sure what food would be included and didn’t do my due diligence to check beforehand.

A pre-ordered family style meal, there were dishes of pasta with cheese, Caesar salad with croutons and parmesan cheese, breaded chicken parm…you get the idea. I had a glass of wine and figured I’d sip slowly and grab food on the way home.

Meet Dessi, our waitress, who didn’t seem to mind I was the annoying customer. In fact, after telling her I was not going to eat (and that it was totally OK), she continued to return to the table, telling me she’s been trying to figure out something I can have so I didn’t have to go hungry. She says:

“I’ve been trying to think of something creative for you and I have an idea! How about a bowl of our olive oil sautéed mushrooms with our homemade wheat free pasta sauce?”

Now, to many of you, this may not sound like a tasty, filling meal. Honestly, even I questioned it at first, but then decided to take her up on it.

And, they had an apple walnut salad that, while was slightly on the sweeter side, was wheat free. It had cheese, but the chunks were large enough to pick out.

Turns out the mushrooms were delicious with the pasta sauce and I felt quite full at the end of everything.

What Dessi Did Right

She Didn’t Shrug Her Shoulders

It was a Friday night at a bustling restaurant and she was serving a party of around 30. There were hungry children. There wasn’t much time for stopping to chat with your waitress. Dessi could have heard me say, “Don’t worry about me, I’m just a picky eater and there’s nothing I can have here” and left it at that. She took the time during her busy evening to figure out something that could work for me. All the while, with a smile on her face.

She Didn’t Pass Up a Creative Solution

When the idea came to her, she found her way back to me to share the meal idea. She didn’t seem annoyed or rushed. If she was, I would have never known. She was a true professional, with an idea up her sleeve to make sure I didn’t go hungry.

She Didn’t Pass Judgement or Ownership

Dessi didn’t roll her eyes at me nor did she pass me on to someone else from her team to work with me. She owned the situation and perhaps even saw it as a challenge to overcome. She clearly had passion about her job – even describing how the pasta sauce is homemade and including the specific ingredients that would be included in the sautéed mushrooms.


To conclude this story, of course I took to the interwebs to share my feedback. I had a hard time finding a contact form on the Buca di Beppo website, but they responded via a Facebook message with a contact to share my feedback about Dessi. They wrote me back within a few hours (impressive!) with a short, but less than canned response message:

Hi Jenny,

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your positive experience with Dessi, from our Mira Mesa location. We always strive to provide exemplary service and are very happy to hear Dessi went above and beyond for you. Please know we have shared your feedback with our local and senior management team. We hope to see you again soon!


Guest Relations Team

Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurants

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jenny Dempsey
Jenny is Consumer Experience Manager for Apeel Sciences and FruitStand with more than 15 years of customer service experience. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on


  1. Can I purchase one of your photos of GIna bouZa you have in some of your restaurants. love your food!


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