After the first half of the Kitchen Nightmares double-episode season premiere two weeks ago, sister-owned North End restaurant La Galleria 33 wasn't looking too great. From dysfunctional owner-staff relationships to delusional busboys to grouchy chefs, everyone appeared to share some of the blame for the restaurant's lack of success, and viewers were left with some doubt that even celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay would be able to help owners Rita and Lisa turn things around. Fortunately, Friday's conclusion offers redemption through a snazzy renovation, a new menu, and some major attitude adjustments.
The sisters hosted a viewing party at the restaurant for the second episode, and seeing the larger-than-life caricatures on screen juxtaposed with the real human beings - who are sweet and humble in person - reinforces that thing that viewers obviously know but try to forget: reality television is not real. As mentioned by the briefest flit of fine print across the screen at the end of each episode, clips are often shown completely out of chronological sequence in order to heighten the drama. In some cases, it really bends the truth and shapes the plot; the sisters insist, for example, that the infamous dropped chicken in the first episode was never intended for customer consumption.
Still, while things might not have been quite as bad as they appeared, the restaurant was in drastic need of help. The second episode opens with Gordon telling Lisa that it seems like she doesn't care, while she insists that she does but still seems on the verge of giving up.
"I'm not here to fight you," says Gordon. "I can see the pain. I can feel it. But this is beyond out of control. I don't know what to say."
Lisa's embarrassed by the whole experience, but Rita's starting to come around. "This is what's embarrassing," says Rita, pointing to one of the failed dishes from the dinner service.
The night ends with a homework assignment for the sisters: they're to make a list of grievances. The next morning, Gordon calls a staff meeting that begins with the list and devolves into a shouting match between the owners and staff. Disagreeable waitress Sara is called out for being a "money grub" and eventually storms out. Meanwhile, others face different criticisms.
"Miguele, you scratch your *** in the dining room," says Rita.
"That doesn't make me a bad waiter if I scratch my ***. Come on," the waiter insists.
"The vibe in here is oozing negativity beyond belief," says a disgusted Gordon.
But somehow the meeting ends on a positive note, with the staff (minus Sara) ready to stop being lazy and start listening to the owners. The owners are ready to take charge, finally looking upbeat. The rest of the path to success is mostly glossed over, but Gordon brings in a chef to work side by side with existing La Galleria 33 chef Doug for a month, teaching him a shiny new menu that focuses on small plates, particularly traditional Italian classics. Some of these, like meatballs and arancini, were shown off at the viewing party, and they seemed a huge improvement over the gloppy, ugly dishes served in the first episode.
Gordon's team renovates the restaurant as well, replacing the dated painted walls with exposed brick and decorating with hanging herbs and a giant La Galleria 33 cutting board.
"I love that cutting board," says Rita. "I'm going to hit someone with it. Probably Sara. And Miguele. And Doug and Lisa."
(According to a conversation on the restaurant's Facebook page, no one has been hit with the cutting board...yet.)
The episode culminates in the re-launch of the restaurant, a week after Gordon's arrival. While the night doesn't go off completely without a hitch, it's clear that things are turning around for La Galleria 33. The sisters, who spent the first episode regretting their decision to appear on the show, now don't want Gordon to leave.
"I wanna keep him," says Rita. "I feel like I'm holding a pistol when he's around. I feel so empowered by him. I'll tie him up to a boiler downstairs. He's staying."
But there are other nightmarish kitchens to save, so it's time for Gordon to go. "This has been one of the most unusual yet enjoyable Kitchen Nightmares I've ever done," he says, "and I'm so proud of how far these two sisters have come in only a matter of days."
While it'll be a matter of months or years before it's clear whether the restaurant will go on to be truly successful, it definitely appears to be better off than it was before Gordon came to town. And despite the drama added to the story by reality television producers, it is truly heartwarming to go to La Galleria 33 and see Rita and Lisa in real life, radiating positive attitudes and serving food that tastes pretty damn good.
Complimentary food was served at the viewing party.