Before I get started, let me preface this by saying that I’m a big fan of the bay area favorite: Mary’s Pizza Shack. The “Shack” serves a variety of homemade Italian food including pizza, pasta, sandwiches, soups, salads, breadsticks, appetizers and desserts at moderate prices. Now the part about “moderate prices” shouldn’t be ignored, as Mary’s does indeed offer great food at equally great prices.
But what also shouldn’t be overlooked is the fact that Mary’s breadsticks are indeed on offer — but despite the advertised “complimentary” (FREE) teaser, they come at a price.
Mary’s Shack Trivia (Page 3)
I don’t know about you, but before I get my food, I tend to explore the on-table offerings that kitschy kitchens tend to offer — whether it’s the colorful flip-page pie photos at Baker’s Square or the vintage-looking, newspaper-style menus at the Black Bear Diner, I like to get my hands dirty with the pre-meal docu-book-toys that are within arms reach.
Mary’s offers a two-page “Shack Trivia” game at each table that is chock-full of questions about the history of the restaurant, including the various donations they’ve made to bay area charities (impressive), the amount of dough that’s put into pizzas throughout their restaurants around the local area, the various duties and roles of management’s sisters, uncles and brothers over the course of their careers at Mary’s, and other facts and figures that’ll keep you occupied until your salad arrives. It’s fun and inviting - sue me.
Admittedly, it’s not the depth or informative nature of the quiz that has me typing at the moment - it’s the first question (and answer) that appears on the quiz that has me sitting uneasy hours after dining at the Mary’s Rohnert Park location.
That’s right. The quiz posted on each and every table lists the “free” breadsticks as the very first question! In fact, it was this very quiz question that prompted me to request the free appetizer before my salad arrived.
But when our waitress arrived to check in and to ask if all was well, I dropped the bomb:
“Can we get the complimentary breadsticks now?”
Waitress: “Breadsticks aren’t free.”
Me: “It says here that they are.”
Waitress: “It does??”
Needless to say, we were at a standstill and no amount of prodding, pointing or illustration would further illuminate the fact that Mary herself (or nearly so) reminded me to order the complimentary breadsticks, as they are what Mary’s Pizza Shack is best known for (answer “d”, above).
So when I got home, I decided to head over to Mary’s website to find out if the free breadstick rule applied universally to all of Mary’s bay area locations. According to the information below, it would appear that the offer is extended to all locations, ne’er to exclude the Rohnert Park link in the chain, as shown in the information found on Mary’s own “About” page:
From Mary’s About Page:
All Mary’s locations have open kitchens, so that you can watch the chefs make the pizza and pasta (and Mary’s pizza cooks are known to give kids free salami slices). Mary’s Pizza Shack continues Mary’s traditions of having free breadsticks in a basket at the front counter. Although Mary Fazio passed away in 1999, her legacy lives on in her family and restaurants as a Sonoma County legend. The Boyes Hot Springs location still saves her parking space with a “reserved for Mary” sign. Today, Mary’s Pizza Shack is no longer a “shack”, but it continues to be a family-run organization, carrying on her family traditions and passion. The Sonoma County tradition continues.
Only the Mary’s Pizza Shack in Rohnert Park?
I then called the restaurant after this to confirm that our experience wasn’t an isolated instance of prejudice or lack of adherence to company policy. The woman on the phone confirmed for me that indeed breadsticks are not part of the complimentary service that Mary’s advertises on each table, but in lieu of such they offered free complimentary french bread. Ah.
So it would appear on the surface that in a faltering economy, Mary’s Rohnert Park location has opted to substitute a little France for Italy and has decided to leave the “Shack Trivia” quiz unmodified and unedited in the process of so doing.
Bottom line here: I still want my Mary’s breadsticks.