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 (261)

  1. Javier G. says:

    May God bless this family and their business too.

  2. cswanson says:

    Robert's clearly Asian minimalist aesthetic bent does not work in Italian restaurants. He favors clean, cold, lines and very minimalist decor. Does not work in all venues and I agree this was a make-under. He had a lot already there to work with and completely wrecked it with tacky green and hello…a dresser?…as a host table. rotten. Snapdragons as centerpieces? Losing me, as well. His opinion is not always right…on the food…perhaps…on decor….I find myself disagreeing more often than not.

    • GiveARat's says:

      Asian? Asia is anything but minimalist. Otherwise, I agree completely.

      I think RI bends much more toward Home Depot / IKEA / junkyard cheap, and not only on this episode.

      But especially in this case, a big redesign in a million dollar establishment required much more than $10,000.

      They should have spend the $10,000 on some paint and a nice hostess station befitting the rest of the decor. Then focus the rest of the show on making the place profitable again.

      This should have been the least impossible of all of the episodes I've seen. What a great, if confused and disorganized family. I wish them all the best.

  3. Mike Brancato says:

    One of the most heart warming shows I have seen in a long time I felt this episode was real I wish them many years of success I liked the original dacor core for the most part it needed to be tweaked Just a little to bring it up to date American-style Thank you Robert for Saving this family

  4. Guest says:

    When it all comes down to it…. the most important thing is that the food is exceptionally good and the place is clean. I would eat here if it was a hole in the wall :)

  5. Greg says:

    I thought the decor looked great BEFORE the remodel. The bar and wall murals were beautiful. I live in Phoenix, and thought this was a beautiful restaurant before the renovation. Now it looks cheap, ugly, and bland. It doesn't look modern, it just looks terrible. There was so much more character in the artwork and decor before it was destroyed with this make under. I've watched just about every RI, and really enjoyed most of them. However, this was a remodel disaster!

  6. Owen says:

    Good Luck to the owners. New decur more modern to attrack younger crowd.

  7. Jesse Essler says:

    I really liked the restaurant decor BEFORE the renovation, especially the murals and the stone bar. Cheryl is really not one of my favorite designers, but if the family was pleased, then all the best to them.

  8. clk says:

    What a passionate family. I agree that the decor was beautiful prior to the make over and was horrified to see the designer paint over the beautiful murals and don't even get me started about removing the beautiful rock from the bar. However, maybe such a drastic change is what was needed for the family to put the hurt from the past behind them and start fresh. I am glad for their success but… It is clear that the father/husband/owner is a talented artist who has has made many sacrifices for his family. He may have been a pizza chef for 40 years but in viewing the artwork that he so caringly adorned the walls with, tells me that although cooking may be his profession, art is his passion. He obviously loves his wife and sons very much to have given so much of himself and given up his passion so that his wife could realize her dream of owning a restaurant. KUDOS to him!

  9. yyyass says:

    I am a licesened interior designer and lighting designer who works in hospitality a lot, and this re-model was a disaster. The existing design had timeless charm, durability, and a connection to the owner through his artwork. The interior played well with building's exterior materials and appearance, as well as the beautiful Arizona palatte of natural materials and colors. It needed a new hostess station and perhaps some creative division between some tables in the seating to add some intimacy. This isn't a pizza parlour after all. It's an upscale $20+ entre restaurant. For lunch you might want a bit more ambient light – but the lighting is a judgement call. Upscale dining shouldn't be too bright, especially for evening meals. Does that place look like a place for a romantic Italian dinner now? Heck no. It looks like a diner of nondescript cultural reference.

    Diners often like to feel like they are "alone" in a venue full of others, and overly bright lighting and open seating tends to feel more like a cafeteria than a fine dining establishment. I prefered the charming original fixtures to her Ikea-grade plastic with hand-dipped paint rings. And the bar front? Please. Beautiful natural stone that references the geography, the exterior, and frames the focal point of the unique oven – and they demolish it for that slap-dash molding monstrosity in white. Can you imagine what that will look like afere one service? Scuff marks and shoe prints all over it. Terrible design there. It's like there was a special on trim molding at the local Home Depot. Just make frames all over and stick generic chotchkis in them. And the obnoxious green covering the walls AND ceiling? A truly terrible color for a dining establishment, and then magnified by using so much of it. She should have designed them a spectacular classy hostess station and dividers for the $10K and been done with it. Instead she ruined the place.

    • Liz says:

      I agree with you yyyass. All of RI's designs include bright light which to me does not belong in a nice restaurant and makes it feel like a cafeteria. I also thought the natural stone on the bar was better than the nonsense they replaced it with. I think Robert Irvine should showcase his restaurant on one of the episodes – let's see what's so great about his place and his food!

    • Jeanne says:

      I agree! I was disappointed in the cheap-looking makeover and especially the obnoxious green paint.

    • Mary says:

      I agree, I agree with everything yyyass wrote!

    • KGNYC says:

      You are dead right on all points. For seeming shock value, they mucked up the place.

      You should offer your services to this family and right this wrong !

    • flynomo says:

      When I heard that they were on this show, I was honestly worried. The decor was one of the things I liked about it. It was very warm and "fit" the type of food they were serving. Based on past shows, it's a hit and miss as far as remodeling a place for $10K, and making it not look and feel cheap. If the family had issues with one another, I'm sure that the $10K would have been better spent with a therapist. So some free advice for Robert; if your'e going to do this again, bring Oprah with you and leave what doesn't need to be fixed alone.

    • Ken Maines says:

      YOU nailed it. The molding sucks! I loved the stone bar. Now it is white with gold stop signs.

    • Judith says:

      My thoughts exactly, and I'm not an interior designer. It was the worst renovation I've seen on this show. The only good thing about it was the art work of the owner. I liked that change.

    • GiveARat's says:

      Very well said, yyyass. What RI did to the interior of this restaurant was criminal. Adding $10,000 worth of crap and paint to it was the worst thing RI could do.

      Considering the quality of materials already existing in the original restaurant finishes, it would have been appropriate to spend the $10,000 on just a couple or a few nice amenities (like a hostess station and dividers as you mention). $10,000 isn't much to spend on any commercial interior renovation, but clearly it's more than enough to do a lot of damage.

      Fortunately, most of the damage can be undone. But painting over Gasper's murals? That is just so sad, stupid and insensitive.

    • Melody says:

      They were obviously under a lot of stress. That money would have been well spent on massages for all of them, not painting over their murals and cheapening their bar. So disappointed with this interior design. I have been disappointed with a few of the RI interior design jobs, but this one definitely tops it for me. It was hard to watch. They are such nice people. How could you do that to them? Their decor was not what was keeping people out. Not at all. Great job otherwise.

  10. Rae says:

    I love how you all complain about what Robert and the crew did, but if it was that great then they wouldn't be losing money and you residents would be going there to eat. The owners called them in bc y'all weren't going there to eat, so zip it and be happy that business has picked up for the owners. Love ya Robert and I admire what you do for these restaurants keep it up! Don't let these haters put you down. They are just jealous of your hard work and success!!

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