Restaurant Revisited: Sapori D’Italia

by in Shows, January 23rd, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleIn addition to his expected mission of renovating the interior and designing a crowd-pleasing menu at Sapori D’Italia in Fountain Hills, Ariz., Robert Irvine faced the challenge of mending a broken family. Together with their sons David and Jonathan, owners Gasper and Maria Manno used to spend much of their time at the restaurant arguing, something that was downright disruptive to customers trying to enjoy a meal. After working with the family to discuss their issues with the restaurant and each other and spending $10,000 on renovations, Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible team reopened the doors to Sapori in only two days. Today, the restaurant is a comfortable eatery with a made-over menu of full-flavored Italian classics to match. Read on below for an exclusive interview with Gasper to find out how Sapori is doing today.

Immediately following filming, Sapori’s revenue shot up nearly $8,000 per week for the first three weeks. Things have settled down a bit since then, with the weekly increase averaging a respectable “$2,000 more than the same time last year,” according to Gasper.

Returning customers have been impressed with the changes at Sapori, and Gasper adds that there have been “lots of new faces” coming by for the first time.

Robert’s new menu items have been high sellers and well-received by customers. The restaurant has incorporated his cucumber salad, marinated beef and chicken osso buco into their regular list of offerings, but instead of serving the osso buco with polenta as Robert did, Gasper swapped in mushroom risotto.

While Gasper is still striving for perfection with his servers, he admits that they’re “not so bad” after all. Chan continues to work at Sapori and is “doing great,” according to Gasper. David and Jonathan are working at the restaurant, too, with David managing front-of-house operations. “Now they want to be here,” Gasper says of his sons. “The family is doing much better.”

To Gasper, one of the most important outcomes of the transformation has been “having my family back working together.” Maria, “works very hard,” Gasper notes, adding that as a couple, they “are doing much better” since the renovation. Customers, too, have noticed a change in the staff’s demeanor at Sapori, as Gasper notes, “The guests have told me many times that they are also very happy to see the whole family working together.”

To Robert and his Restaurant: Impossible crew, Gasper says, “A very sincere thank you to the entire team that showed me the light at the end of the tunnel.”

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Windseeker Restaurant (January 16)
Whiskey Creek Steakhouse (January 2)
Rising Sun Bistro (December 19)
Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri (December 9)
Bronk’s Bar and Grill (December 5)
Rohrer’s Tavern (November 28)
Poco’s on the Boulevard (November 21)
Oleander Bar and Grill (October 17)
Valley Inn (October 10)
Whistle Stop (October 3)
The Maple Tree Cafe (September 26)
Michele’s (September 19)
Paliani’s Restaurant (September 12)
Frankie’s (September 5)
Gusanoz (August 29)

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Comments (260)

  1. LLG in SEA says:

    I love live love RI, BUT
    This is the first time I hated the Reno. Change just for shock value is a waste. They spent $100,000 k on the decir. Most should have been saved. A beautiful "Tuscan" bar was ruined. The green? Yuck. The lights fixtures they HAD were beautiful. If you wanna change things up, they would have served as lovely sconces instead of the cheapo ones in the "after".
    I wish the family well, and RI did a great job, as always with the menu and the "dynamics".
    Sorry, Cheryl has usually been among my least faces. This sealed the deal.

  2. fansofgoodfood says:

    We are so glad this resturant exists. My husband is in love with their lasgne and homemade desserts. Love the daily specials. Maria and Gasper are lovely people, who remember and charish their customers. So glad RI came to the rescue! We wish them the best. I do wish some of the original decor had remained. (not fond of green).

  3. David says:

    I liked the decor before, although it needed more light. I felt a huge weight lifted with the revival of the *new restaurant. However, I too hope that the father is not too unhappy with the removal of his art. I also thought the bar front was tacky. I loved the rock bar before. But…maybe this will work. The family will hopefully be excited and happy to get a new start and I hope that they can retrain or get new waitstaff that cares about who they work for. This was an emotional show for sure. I have mixed feelings but wish them the best.

  4. J.Elston says:

    It is amazing how a TV show presents a different “reality” to a nation of viewers than what actually is the true atmosphere and situation of a business (or any other entity) for those who are locals and know the real place. I have been a resident in Fountain Hills, AZ (Not to be mistaken for Forrest Hills, which is the name of a cemetery in North Central Los Angeles where many TV and movie personalities have been buried) for several years and know this restaurant well. While the food has never been that great, many locals I know go there for the charm, atmosphere, and beautiful and traditional elegance that decorates the business – from a brilliant torch flame on the outside of the building (often an unofficial and dearly loved “welcome home” icon for those of us returning to our homes in Fountain Hills from somewhere else) to the beautiful stone and artistic wall murals on the inside. It is this charm that gave the restaurant some of its best quality. But when Hollywood invades… elegance and high quality décor get destroyed for the sake of on camera shock value and cheap tackiness. At the very least, someone on the show should have done a little more research about the area. Fountain Hills is a high end, upper income, posh area that has extended from Scottsdale and is well known for its rural elegant grandeur. It is Scottsdale “without the big city bustle” and the majority of its population are people 40 and older. Most of the homes in the area are multi-million dollar real estate and even the local stores reflect the upper level theme of the local community. So it makes sense that someone who starts a business in that area would be near a million in investing into a restaurant. This is no place for the cheap, tacky, and poor quality of décor that the RI show threw upon the restaurant. RI and crew should be ashamed of what they did and it was so very sad and disappointing to see them tear out so much beautiful and expensive materials that should have remained. They turned an elegant, fancy, and romantic restaurant into a cheap looking tacky taco stand out of east LA. How is that improving anything? RI and crew should have focused more on the real problem of the restaurant – the FOOD!! I realize that RI thinks he is Dr. Phil now and must do all of that psycho-therapy but it was the food that was causing the lost business! I also know that the TV show made much more drama than there really is and, while every family has their problems, I suspect that most of the crying was encouraged by off camera producers. I’ve met the owners and they’re really nice people, not the uncontrolled sobbing and crying people seen on the show. They are proud, caring, and truly want the best for their patrons. The waiters and waitresses are actually pretty good there and not the aloof and clueless idiots that the show tried to cast them as… (Although, Fountain Hills itself suffers from a lack of many places to eat and few places have good service or food. Probably the only real competition is Phil’s Filing Station about 2 miles away. Finding good help is also a challenge in Fountain Hills, especially in the summer when more than half of its residence who are snow birds, are living somewhere out of state and half the businesses in Fountain Hills shuts down) I have not been to the restaurant since the RI renovation but I am looking forward to the expected food improvement, however, the décor looks so horrible on the show that I am afraid to go back and see if it really is that bad in person. It is a shame that they can’t put it back the way that it was originally. If you are watching the show and actually think that this décor is an improvement, then you have NO understanding of what Fountain Hills is all about. As part of our community and a patron of this restaurant, I hope and wish the best for this family.

    • Jennifer says:

      we live in the Phoenix area, so we were looking forward to actually visiting a restaurant that we saw on RI. While I think the decor and atmosphere was a bit dark before the remodel, my BF and I both agree that what RI did to the interior of that restaurant was AWFUL, and we're not really sure we even want to visit, now. Maybe it needed a bit 'toning down' from all the murals, but to take almost all of them away, especially after learning they were all painted by the owner? That was horrible. We agree, the 'after' interior is just another tacky-ish, soul-less decor with no individual charm.

      I do hope and wish the best for the family, as well– we may visit at some point in the future, because we're always on the lookout for interesting, good restaurants in the valley, but we both definitely agree that the 'updating' done on the show isn't always for the better.

    • J.Elston says:

      FOLLOW-UP: Today, I went to the restaurant to see with my own eyes if the design was as bad in person as it appeared on the show. In my opinion, it is WORSE. When I think of how beautiful, charming, and romantic this place was when I was last there and compare it with what I saw in person today, it makes me sick. All those beautiful paintings on the wall (except one) are gone! All of that perfectly laid and crafted stone are gone! The fire pit is still there but lacks the dramatic and traditional framing that it once had by the surrounding natural wood and stone design. The colors are cheap and tacky. The light fixture don't look like they belong. And the place reflects exactly what happened – Hollywood 48 hour tornado came through and destroyed every ounce of ambiance the place had. I am SO MAD and ANGRY at Robert and the RI crew for doing this to such a nice family. I will NEVER watch that show again. Forever it will burn in my mind how they came and destroyed this family's (and the Fountain Hills community's) special gem of a place to dine. All in the name of ratings! While they respectively never said one negative thing about the "new" decor while I was there today, you could almost read on their faces that they are not happy with the decor either and frankly, I think they were just as surprised as the rest of us about what happened. The GOOD news is that damage to this restaurant was only the decor. The service there was EXCELLENT! And I am happy to say that the food has improved quite a bit from my last visit. There did seem to be much more flavor in every bite and I enjoyed it immensely. As always, the family who runs it was as kind and wonderful as always and they continue to shine as an excellent example of the high quality people we have here in our Fountain Hills community. I am looking forward to going back again, however, I will insist on eating out in the patio- the only area of the restaurant that still looks the same after the RI attack that took so much away. God bless the restaurant and the wonderful family who cares for it so well!

    • @PCN_DiRT says:

      Dumbass… if this place was such a gem, why were they losing $5,000 a month? Get over yourself!

      • DanL says:

        He said it in his first post .. IT WAS THE FOOD!!

      • Bob's Friend says:

        I agree with PCN_DiRT. Get over your high opinion of your town. If everything was that great, then why were they all so miserable and why was the service so poor?! I don't go to a restaurant SOLELY based on it's decor. I go based on the atmosphere and the food. If you can only look at the interior, then you probably need to remember that for some (such as your pathetic self) beauty is skin deep.

        • kaossy says:

          For the record, his attitude toward his town is very typical of Scottsdale/Fountain Hills. I live in Scottsdale, and when I tell people that, they assume 2 things. I'm rich and I think I'm gods gift. This area has the rep it has for a reason, and it sucks to live here and have to deflect that all the time.

    • debbie says:

      I loved the murals on the walls. I was afraid they would all be painted over. I can not go because Iive in Rhode Island.

    • Susan says:

      The makeover to me looked tacky & cheap. I thought it looked good before. Sometimes, it's the food & family that need help more than the decor. If people weren't going there enough, I'm sure it wasn't the decor but the food.
      I want to go there, but I have to admit, the new decor is off-putting. I will go there & give it a try. That eggplant parm looked good!
      One of the best places (still) in Fountain Hills is "Señor Taco." They have FABULOUS shrimp tacos and burritos. The decor sucks, but again – the FOOD is why I keep going back there. Thank goodness they have one in the East Valley too!

    • Chef N says:

      J E … Not just writing in here. Go help and turn the decor back to the way you want. Plus don't forget to give $$$ money to the restaurant before they're go out of business…. Can you do that …!!! … or … Just wanna find things to complain … complain … complain … !!!! … Like ………………………………………..

    • rose says:

      i agree with the design but i believe the family WAS a main problem
      them crying is merely letting go of their feelings that were inside them afterall just b/c u saw the owners and they weren't crying doesnt mean they arent hurting inside

    • Judith says:

      To each their own. I think Robert is a genius at getting to the bottom of the human dynamics which can undermine the restaurant's success. The decor needed help, it was dark and uninspired. But the remedy was awful, not the high-end decor it should have been. I'm surprised they didn't cry when they first walked in and saw it!

    • Shelby says:

      I a full time resident of Fountain Hills,Az and would like to know what part of Fountain Hills the original writer of the comment actually resides in. I can honestly say that a good majority of the population is families, not 40+. Fountain Hills is NOT part of Scottsdale and other then real estate prices Fountain Hills is nothing like Scottsdale. Scottsdale has an abundance of shopping, restaurants, and unlike Fountain Hills has movie theaters/ entertainment. We do have a rather large snowbird populations but they are not here year round. They come in winter and leave when the snow back east melts.

    • Gracie says:

      What a joke! Fountain Hills is a fairly nice town but Beverly Hills it is not.

    • Lance Harbour says:

      Actually the place was a classless dump before the show, and both the décor and food have been far better. I'd hate to see your house décor if you thought the former layout was anything more than just bad.

    • EKBrown says:

      inspite of the decor that YOU liked……it was going broke and the family was feuding and stressed…..you are not a true supporter if you cant go back because the decor is changed its a restaurant not an art gallery…..

    • Crowman says:

      Fountain Hills IS NOT high income and posh. Sure, there are many million dollar houses…but there are also small apartments and duplexes for the average family. FH is a regular city with regular people. Also, don't forget Que Bueno, the Saddlebronc and the Holiday Inn. There are plenty of other places to eat in FH.

    • Jeff and Jane says:

      You are not the type to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative Mr or Mrs. Elston, that is sad. I would rather focus on the hearts of the people, Gasper and Maria. Warm and wonderful people that get negative feedback based on looks of what happened that brought their hearts back together is a shame. This is typical behavior for those who make a point of announcing dollar values of Fountain Hills. "Fountain Hills is a high end, upper income, posh area that has extended from Scottsdale and is well known for its rural elegant grandeur. It is Scottsdale “without the big city bustle” and the majority of its population are people 40 and older. Most of the homes in the area are multi-million dollar real estate and even the local stores reflect the upper level theme of the local community." I am so pleased that you define emotions in financial terms, kudos to your success!! Kierland Plaza is made just for you, snooty money focused heartless materialistic morons. Too much money, not enough heart.
      By the way, I probably ate one of the finest meals I have ever enjoyed, prepared with love by Gasper, for Jane and I, personally. You don't really deserve to be a customer, sorry.

  5. AceofTaste says:

    BORING! Thank goodness for DVRs. I am one of your biggest fans Robert but you are slowly losing me. I used to watch the show live, not anymore. About half of this show was spent sitting around 2 round tables talking. This is were the DVR comes in, fast-forwarding past this yap, yap, yap. Writing letters to each other and reading them…(fast-forward) I don't care! How many times did I have to see the old man cry…fast-forward. It's Restaurant Impossible not Dr. Drew. We didn't even see the cook till 45 minutes into the show. Robert, look back at what made the show such a success in the beginning and look at the show now…totally different.

  6. Danielle D-H says:

    I agree with Jennifer and Jim above. The first comment I saw above on opening this site was so negative and so deplete of human understanding I had to wonder what will become of our society if this person is an example of that. Unbelievably cold attitude toward what makes any business, any family, any life actually succeed with happiness and joy. That is love for each other, love for your life and positive thinking. This family is finally realigning with what is going to pivot their lives toward complete success and abundance. Bless them, don't denigrate them!

    • Sam O. says:

      Ditto. It was like that Grumpy Cat meme had been actualized in a cascade of rhetoric.

      Kudos to J. Elston for being a harping pedant. Sorry to hear he lives in a famous person cemetery.

  7. A Designer says:

    I often watch, and love the designer's Lynn and Tonya. This designer in this episode, however, has been doing worse and worse, if you ask me. The Italian restaurant was gorgeous BEFORE. It read, "ITALIAN" when you walked in. And the man's own artwork was on the walls. It was warm, rich, luxerious and italian BEFORE.

    The designer totally trashed it, and cheapened it. The bar front is the ugliest part! How can you trash those nice rocks, that were tying in all the other rocks in the place? It really cheapened the look. Also, the walls were terrible. Those mold frames weren't centered, and totally made a mockery of the gorgeous murals the owner himself had made that were there prior. It was a sad, sad, remodel.

    The owner's put their love and money into vanishing those gorgeous rich columns, etc. And the TV crew simply painted them white, brought in an ugly hostess stand that looks like a piece of furniture someone left out by the curb, etc. Now, it reads, "Modern, Boring, Practical Design". Completely not special, nice or creative. Ugly, if you ask me (and I happen to love modern design).

    As for the episode otherwise: very deserving family, and great show!

    • Marc says:

      I agree. I thought the decor was great, and I also wanted to say this eposide was great. I wish them well.

      • Chi says:

        I did like the stone bar, but I also thought that after the renovations it looked more modern. At first it looked like your traditional "Olive Garden" Italian-type restaurant and now it looks more classy and upscale. I do, however, think Taniya is the best designer there and all the shows should feature her, but I'm sure she is quite busy!

    • Toni says:

      I agree about the hostess desk, very tacky, does not connect with any of the other tacky remodeling. So sad to see what they did to that original beautiful Italian Restaurant. Jut moved to Fountain Hills and will have to check it out. The food looked great. Wishing the family the best.

  8. Barbara B in Oregon says:

    It was a WONDERFUL episode, highlighting that the real importance is family. I loved the new look of the place (the designer was right when she said it looked like a cave before) and I was delighted to see the change in the family dynamics. Wish I were in Arizona to try it myself (but I lived there for 30 years and have no intention of going back to that weather!)

    Good for you, Robert!

    • J.Elston says:

      Barbara,

      You have NO idea what you're talking about. The new look is a tragedy compared to what it was before. The comment about it being like a cave is ridiculous and the designer was wrong to say that! You are making a shallow opinion based on the comments of a TV crew and if you actually were here in Fountain Hills and saw what it looked like before compared to what it now looks like, you would not be so "delighted". Those of us who actually LIVE HERE and SEE the truth are mourning the loss of all that beauty and charm. We still wish the best for the family and want to see the restaurant succeed (It is only one of a few in the area that is worth going to) to its full potential. And really? Do you actually believe that family issues can be solved in 48 hours? I don't even recall Robert Irvine having ANY degree in psychology that has been made public. You missed the point of the show – It clearly illustrated that, according to the RI crew, the importance is NOT on family, it is on RATINGS!!! And suckers like you take it in hook, line, and sinker.

  9. Robert Szoradi says:

    When I saw the restaurant at the opening of the show I thought that was a beautiful place to eat. The designer destroyed the place and made it look cheap The bar was beautiful with the natural rocks. The only thing that needed to be worked over was the food and training for the wait staff. There was nothing that you did to be proud of. Shame on you

  10. Sandi Button says:

    I want to know how he did the Shimp Scampi.

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