Boston's had a variety of reality television appearances recently, from Kathy Sidell and Todd English's episodes on Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell to Steve "Nookie" Postal's run on Around the World in 80 Plates. Jason Santos even made a visit to his old stomping grounds, Hell's Kitchen. But while those shows recognize talent in some form, there's one show that can't help but reflect extremely poorly on its stars, at least at first: FOX's Kitchen Nightmares, in which foul-mouthed superstar chef Gordon Ramsay swoops into failing restaurants to try to get them back on their feet. The latest season kicked off last week with an uncomfortable look at the dysfunctional La Galleria 33 in Boston's North End, owned by Lisa and Rita, "two sisters who couldn't be more different." In some ways, though, they're not all that different, as the oddly cheery voiceover continues: "They drink, they smoke, and they even fight with their customers."
The sisters founded the restaurant in 2006 with some help from their parents, who own L'Osteria, less than 100 feet down the street. They expected immediate success like L'Osteria had after opening in 1985, but "it never took off," explains Rita. It's not hard to see why as the sisters spend the episode bickering, berating their staff, and yes, even fighting with customers. The staff seems to be sabotaging the restaurant as well, either deliberately or through gross incompetence. The head chef, Doug, is also Rita's ex-husband ("Sounds like a soap opera," said Gordon), and the sisters describe him as a "grouch" who "doesn't take criticism well." At one point during dinner service, he drops chicken on the floor and then goes on to cook it right in front of Gordon.
Meanwhile, Sara, a server, seems amused by the whole experience, smirking a little sardonically as she gives Gordon all the dirt on what she sees as incompetent ownership. As the sisters eavesdrop, they call her an "imbecile," "skank," and "traitor Benedict Arnold."
"You know, I hate Sara," says Lisa.
"I'm going to kill her," says Rita. "I want Sara strangled."
There's also the busboy, Pat, a former shoe salesman who appointed himself manager. Rita fired him once but let him come back as we walked by in the rain "like a sad puppy," and she lets him call himself a manager, although it appears that he doesn't do much managing.
Aside from the apparent hatred amongst Rita, Lisa, and the staff, Gordon also has his work cut out for him on the food end. Everything that he tries is bland, most is disgusting, and everything labelled "homemade" was prepared days (or weeks) ahead of time and frozen. "Better to serve frozen food than rotten food," says Doug apathetically, with a smirk to rival Sara's. It's unclear whether Doug is simply a bad chef, lazy, or sabotaging his ex-wife - or a little bit of all three.
Completely unsatisfied with the food, Gordon asks about dessert. The restaurant serves one - tiramisu - and it sounds like they've been out of it for awhile. Gordon sends Pat down the street to L'Osteria to fetch him some tiramisu, and the sisters' mother arrives to deliver it. In a rare heartwarming moment, Gordon loves it, hugging and kissing the mother. But as for everything else:
"The food was dated, bland, boring, and way below par in one of the most competitive streets anywhere in this country," declares Gordon.
The sisters begin to regret signing up for this. "It would have been easier to be hung from the roof by my toenails," says Rita.
As is standard Kitchen Nightmares procedure, Gordon then watches a full dinner service before beginning to work his magic. Unsurprisingly, it's a total disaster, from the dropped chicken to Rita angrily confronting an unhappy table.
"I don't think you two should be running a restaurant," says Gordon, as both sisters simultaneously ask why, in total shock and denial. "Because I don't think you give a ***," he continues. "No one has any pride...and you should not be running a business."
Lisa's had enough and walks out, followed closely by Gordon, who says that he'll leave if she leaves. Reality television cliffhanger requirement fulfilled. The second part airs this Friday, revealing Gordon's master plan to turn things around for La Galleria 33.