‘Restaurant: Impossible’ gave owner ‘tough love’
Aponte’s Pizzeria celebrated its grand reopening Thursday to dozens of diners eager to be among the first to see the restaurant’s star-studded makeover.
Crews from the popular Food Network TV show “Restaurant: Impossible” – a show known for rescuing struggling eateries – were in town Wednesday and Thursday to film the Mason pizzeria. The episode is expected to air sometime in August, producers say.
Hosted by celebrity chef Robert Irvine, the brawny British restaurateur and his team of designers have 48 hours to revamp failing restaurants with a $10,000 budget.
Lisa Kendall knows better than most the show’s behind-the-scenes action – and of the drama that lies ahead for restaurant owners. Her North Bend restaurant, Rohrer’s Tavern, was featured on the show last fall.
Without the TV show, the Cleves restaurateur says she might be out of business.
“I was honestly within weeks of closing,” said Kendall, 44. “I had exhausted every bit of everything I had.”
Kendall, a single mom of a teenage son, worked in property management until the housing bubble burst in 2006.
Then, after managing an Indianapolis restaurant, she took the plunge and purchased the half-century old establishment in 2009 on a lease option.
At first, business was good, but then customers began to dwindle.
Soon, Kendall found herself $120,000 in debt and unable to draw a salary.
She submitted an online application to the show in June and within weeks received notice that the restaurant had been selected. Filming took place over two days in August.
“It was stressful,” Kendall admitted. “What you see in the show is exactly how it goes – nothing’s scripted. They pull out of you emotions and they knew the key trigger with me was not looking like a failure in my son’s eyes.”
The no-holds-barred chef offered no praise to the casual-fare eatery, criticizing its reliance on frozen food and its dated decor and flagging service.
The remodel put a brighter, more modern flair on the restaurant and introduced a new, smaller menu incorporating fresh ingredients.
Several of Irvine’s dishes turned out to be instant hits, like hand-cut french fries made in-house, a seven-layer chocolate cake and a hanger steak with mashed potatoes and sautéed zucchini.
Kendall says she’s kept the new menu, but has brought back a few customer favorites Irvine ditched, such as the restaurant’s fish sliders and Ahi tuna with seven-pepper seasoning.
Business has remained steady since the episode aired Nov. 21, Kendall said. She’s even drawing a paycheck.
“I’m still digging my way out (of debt) and I know it won’t happen overnight,” she said. “I have no regrets appearing on the show. From my experience, it’s tough love and they are there to help you.”
IF YOU GO
• Rohrer’s Tavern is at 418 S. Three Rivers Parkway, North Bend. Information: 513-941-4266.
• Get a preview of Rohrer’s Tavern on “Restaurant: Impossible” at bit.ly/11Z3WhG