For some reason I've always gotten the following expression wrong.  Ever hear of someone suggesting, "the hair of the dog" when talking about hangover remedies? Well, I'm sure it's just the Jersey in me, but I always thought the expression was "bite the dog that bit ya".  In other words, if something hurts you or is making you feel bad, confront it and only if necessary, bite back. There's a cheesesteak shop in Jersey that does just that. In fact, in the owner's own words, he "punches the bully right in the face" and it couldn't be  more Jersey.

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The owner of Gaetano's Cheesteaks in Hamilton Square, Bill Hansen, has started making news, not for actual violence, but for verbally fighting back when someone leaves an unfavorable review online.  In a world where bad computer comments may get someone  rewarded with free coupons and an invite to give the restaurant another try, this place is not having it.  I called Bill Hansen Jr, the current owner, to hear first hand about why he decides to respond to bad reviews online instead of trying to win those customers back.  I expected to hear a tough guy answer but the real reason cuts right to the heart.

Bill Hansen Sr. opened Gaetano's as a family business Photo credit: Bill Hansen
Bill Hansen Sr. opened Gaetano's  about 16 years ago for his family
Photo credit: Bill Hansen

When he was younger, Bill's Dad scraped together enough money to be able to live the American dream of owning a family business.  The plan was to eventually open multiple stores to hand down to his kids.  The family was ready for the relentless hard work but tragically, Bill's dad passed away just one month after buying the restaurant. Bill was now thrown into the family business right after graduating and even with the tragedy of losing his dad, the family made Gaetano's a success, now going on 16 years.

Gaetano's is making news for fighting trolls on Yelp
Gaetano's is making news for fighting trolls on Yelp

Bill explained that fair critiques are one thing, but trolls who lie are another. He won't sit by and watch nameless people hiding behind a computer screen (some who have never set foot in his restaurant) tarnish his dad's dream. After a TV station covered this story, Bill woke up to 35 more "reviews" from people just looking for a fight because they know he stands up for himself and the family business.  Most of the verified reviews are positive and Bill is trying to stay positive too. He told me,

I don't want to talk back to anyone or have a problems but I have to stand up when someone is just trying to get free food or basically get their five minutes of fame.

As I said, Gaetano's is working on their 16th year in business and that doesn't happen without the goods.  You can read the reviews and his responses here.

Look, if you ask me, I can't believe this is even making's a free country and if you think someone is going to kiss your rosy butt just because you're the customer then your not from Jersey. Bill has a right to bite back if he thinks your comments are unfounded. I'm going to say it, sometimes the customer is not right.

Bill is happy to take feedback face to face but for the trolls too chicken to speak up in person, be prepared to get reviewed right back. Don't say you haven't been warned.  Now can we talk about the more pressing issue of getting a cheesesteak with extra hot peppers?  FYI...locals love this place, if you haven't been go check it out.

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