I used to think that the best thing about Olive Garden was the unlimited breadsticks and salad — until I heard about the Italian restaurant chain’s waitress turned real-life hero, Nianni Rudder.
A customer and busy mom at a North Carolina-based location explained how the waitress stopped to feed her fussy toddler so she could enjoy her meal. And there is no denying Nianni went above and beyond the franchise’s “When You’re Here, You’re Family” slogan.
“Tonight my family and I went out to Olive Garden for dinner, and per Harlynn’s usual she did everything but sit in her high chair and eat her dinner like I picture in my dreams,” Courtney Pedigo wrote on a Facebook post that has since gone viral. “She had me so overwhelmed from letting all of Olive Garden know she was in the house and trying her best to wiggle her way down me to run the restaurant, I had went to find our waitress to ask if she could please bring my food out in a to-go box cause we were going out to sit in the car…”
Instead of just bringing her a to-go box and focusing on her other diners, waitress extraordinaire Nianni told Courtney, “No,” and decided to take matters into her own hands.
“She really said ‘NO, You’re going to go sit down and enjoy your dinner and I will be there to sit with her!’ And that’s exactly what she did,” Courtney detailed. “She brought Harlynn a bowl of ice cream with caramel syrup and even though Harlynn wouldn’t let her hold her, she sat there in my lap and let [Nianni] feed her while I ACTUALLY GOT TO EAT MY FOOD WHILE IT WAS STILL HOTT!!!!!”
It was a simple act of kindness from a stranger, but it meant so much to Courtney — and we’re sure Harlynn was not complaining about the free ice cream.
“Girl, you will never truly know how appreciative I am for tonight. I seriously admire you, Not only because you took the time to bribe my bratty little human with sweets so I could eat but because you are so so strong,” Courtney gushed. “I know your Mom is looking down from Heaven with the BIGGEST smile and so incredibly proud of the woman you are. I aspire to be the go getter you are and like I told my dad on our way home it has to take someone with a strong heart and mind to do what you do bc I know I couldn’t!”
She ended the note with some sweet words, writing, “Thank you for your amazing service and for being so kind to us all.”
As expected, Olive Garden enthusiasts praised Nianni for taking the time out of her busy day to help an overwhelmed mom. “That’s very sweet of her. The smallest acts of kindness can mean so much,” one follower wrote. “I wish more people could use the energy that they waste fighting, bashing, judging, profiling others to do a few simple acts of kindness. Bless you Nianni for being the wonderful kind person you are!”
Another added, “Such kindness is so rare and knowing this waitress’ background just goes to show how much someone can overcome and still trying to pay her own money for school… If I were a rich person I would definitely go and pay this lady’s tuition to help her! God Bless you sweetie and God Bless you Courtney for taking the time to acknowledge this kindness!”
Others shared similar stories of their experiences at Olive Gardens around the country. “I love Olive Garden, they have wonderful human beings, they deliver the best customer service and treat us like if we were their own family, a third chimed in. “I felt that two weeks ago when I went to eat to one of the restaurants in Mason Ohio. The lady was wonderful with us, I want to return soon. Thanks to the lady and Olive Garden!”
However, for Nianni, it was just another day at work. “It was my pleasure to help. Your family was the sweetest ever. Thank you guys for blessing my day with your presence,” Nianni commented on the post.
Nianni also responded to her “viral” story with an expectedly humble status update. “I didn’t intend on going ‘viral,’ I didn’t help my guest to go ‘viral.’ I did what I would want for someone to do for me if I was in that situation,” she wrote. “People need to be more compassionate with one another. Anyone with a heart would have done the same.”
Nianni really is one-of-a-kind. We hope Olive Garden rewards this waitress with more than just their unlimited breadsticks.