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Mama mia, Marilyn mania in Italia! TV host Anderson Cooper sending Herald columnist on cruise (VIDEOS)

Next stop for Marilyn Hagerty: Real Italian food. By real, we mean food made in Italy. For appearing on "Anderson," Anderson Cooper's morning talk show airing nationally today, the Grand Forks Herald's food critic and a friend will receive a 12-d...

Anderson Cooper and Marilyn Hagerty on 'Anderson'

Next stop for Marilyn Hagerty: Real Italian food.

By real, we mean food made in Italy.

For appearing on "Anderson," Anderson Cooper's morning talk show airing nationally today, the Grand Forks Herald's food critic and a friend will receive a 12-day luxury cruise to Italy.

The cruise is the cherry atop a whirlwind of public attention the last two weeks for the 85-year-old Hagerty, whose March 7 Eatbeat review of the Olive Garden went viral on the Internet.

And, clearly, Hagerty saved her best media bit for last with her entertaining exchange with Cooper, a skilled and personable host.

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"It was the highest high of a whole wonderful experience," Marilyn said today. "Anderson Cooper has a way of making you feel at ease, like a friend you can talk to. He's not a stiff shirt, by any means.

"He gave me a big hug afterwards and it didn't seem hooky."

Learning of the cruise atop all of her media scrutiny had her "feeling like I've drank too much," Hagerty told Cooper during the show.

She was featured for about 20 minutes of the one-hour show, which aired locally from 9 to 10 a.m. on KXJB-TV (Channel 4).

Propelling Hagerty to the national stage was her review of Grand Forks' new Olive Garden, a long-awaited restaurant by local residents. Tuesday morning on CBS, the national chain received good and bad publicity.

Marilyn revealed that the manager of the Grand Forks Olive Garden claimed to be "too busy" to meet after her lunch. However, a video clip showed her asking her waiter at NYC's post Crown restaurant: "Is your bread warm, like at the Olive Garden?"

Hagerty's Olive Garden review spread like wildfire across the Internet, starting with naysayers poking fun at reviewing a chain restaurant. Yet, many more rallied to her defense, as Internet views of the review have exceeded 1 million.

Her next job is to select someone to accompany her on the cruise.

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"Everyone is now my best friend," she said. "I never knew I had so many friends."

Videos below

A segment appeared on 'Anderson,' taped last week during Hagerty's trip to the Big Apple, showing Marilyn dining at the Crown Restaurant in Manhattan.

Cooper told a surprised Hagerty near show's end that she would receive a 12-day trip for two to Italy; that clip is shown below, as is another clip from the program that aired.

The staff at "Anderson" also taped video clips of the Herald columnist talking about restaurant tips and her favorite truck stop; both are below.

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