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 (265)

  1. Morgan says:

    If that makeover was done secretly before Robert's visit, he would have walked in and ripped it apart.

    I too liked the Italian charm before the change. They should have put in a hostess stand that worked with the original decor and maybe a few additions, and then give them the remaining $9,000 in cash at the reveal to help their debt! They did act real happy with it. I wonder if they really were after things calmed down.

    Their food may have lacked flavor, but it sure did look good.

    Good luck to them. I hope their increased sales continues.

    • Susan says:

      I agree. I think this was one of the worst makeovers they have ever done. The restaurant looked better before.

    • Kathy says:

      I think that would have been great. Would have helped the owners and actually added interest to the show. You should be a consultant to the show!

  2. Mina says:

    Look people. Decor change was necessary because it's a psychological transformation. And that was needed here. The decor had to change 100 percent practically to give the family a feeling of starting over. The old decor if left would have been a reminder of failure. The new decor is also beautiful and the family was happy. So all you haters are just that. If you really miss the old decor that much so be so negative about what RI did for this family then you are missing the point. The restaurant and family was failing and needed change. Period. Good luck to them. I love the new decor and food!

    • @WarmHugz says:

      Mina, I agree with you totally. Restaurant Impossible is not only about the decor and the food — it's about the people — and that's why I love the show. The owners are the core of any business, so when Robert sees a failing restaurant, he proceeds to fix it from the inside out. The Manno family had no idea how to save their business; but with Robert's expert advice and $10,000 the family and the restaurant were saved.

    • alan says:

      Mina, I agree 100 % !! While the New Décor was nice I believe the way it was prior was more Classy but the Psychological transformation was what they needed the most and was delivered !! BZ to MI

    • Rose says:

      Seems like you are the only one who have a brain to think. Instead of sitting their gossiping and complaining about this show…..use your brain like Mina PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • GiveARat's says:

      No, Mina, you have missed the point.

      The restaurant did indeed need some changes. But change for its own sake is not a solution to anything, and that is exactly what happened here.

      Decor can easily be changed, often dramatically, without destroying the heart of the space. RI removed the heart, threw it out the door, and walked all over it.

      Chef Irvine should have read a little of Hippocrates' work during his honeymoon in Greece and taken the advice to "abstain from doing harm".

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  4. Kim says:

    This restaurant was beautiful before the makeover. Gasper and Maria have much more design talent and style than the designer who didn't see the existing Old World charm. She should have simply cleaned, added beautiful lighting, a hostess table, and cut flowers rather than making Sapori’s look like it belongs in a strip mall. I wonder how many takes it took for the family to appear happy with the reveal.

    I hope RI did a better job in the other areas like the food, menu, motivating the family to work together happily, etc. Wishing the family the best.

    • Kim Valley says:

      I have lived in the Arizona desert, and when Mr. Irvine referred to the old restaurant look as "cave-like" I recognized what would likely have positive connotations in such an environment with a few tweaks. My only thought as to why a big change would be good would be to give the family a mental/physical fresh start. I think this could have been done while incorporating more of what Gasper had already done. However, I love Robert Irvine's menu changes, his fresh and fast approach to food and his willingness to let the family feel they are part of the change in that moment, because that is what they really needed. I enjoy your show in general.

  5. betsybug818 says:

    I've been reading everyone's comments, expecting a massive and epic design fail.

    Were we all watching the same episode? Cheryl moved the restaurant's design into the 21st century. It looks terrific.

    Now, having said that, had anyone said, "OMG, Cheryl ripped off Kelly Wearstler's Viceroy Santa Monica lobby/bar design, how unoriginal," I would have totally seconded you on that. She totally stole that from Wearstler.

  6. Karilean says:

    I'm 5 minutes into watching this show, and feel like I'm watching "RI Meets Maury Povitch". Yikes! Not interested in watching yet ANOTHER dysfunctional family restaurant episode. This is why I stopped watching RI a while ago – because of all the exaggerated melodrama (whether real or manufactured.) Thought I would give them one more chance, but it seems like the producers now equate pandering to the lowest common denominator with high ratings. RI, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Time for me to switch back over to the Cooking Channel, where they focus on cooking and leave the over-the-top theatrical antics to Springer (and, apparently, to their sister network, the Food Network.)

  7. meli says:

    Great show. Hope they stay in business, nice family.

  8. Lore says:

    My best wishes for the family, specially for Gasper who has amazing feelings for his family. He is live made in a man. Strong and compassive. Maria, she is the leading character of the family. A very strong woman who will not stop for anything as long as she is protecting her family. Amazing woman! Regardless of the new decor comments, as long as it works and brings new fresh customers, is fine.
    I loved your story and I sincerely wish for your family the best. Is such a beautiful family.
    Just one recommendation: keep the service organized per 2-3 tables. It didn't showed like that on tv, hence my comment. But coming from Dubai, where hospitality and service is a top of the edge, I highly recommend to have one service person responsible of only 2 or 3 tables. No more.
    Again, my best sincere wishes for such a warm and lovely family.

  9. KPint says:

    R.I. doesn't know the market area. This community has very little of the "younger crowd". Mostly 40 and over professionals such as doctors, attorneys and the like. And the people that are not year round are what we call "snow birds". They come in the winter when the weather is great and leave in the late spring when it heats up. These are OLDER people, with money to burn. Changing this resturant to this extent to please a "younger" eye was a mistake. There should have been changes to highlight the highly expensive items they had there already, a little repaint to tone down some of the murals (there were just too many before), a hostess station that didn't look like it came from salvation army, and ambient lighting. That's it. The rest was a complete waste of money.

  10. Mandy says:

    This was my first episode of Restaurant Impossible. I could feel the pain that this family was in…things tend to snowball and get worse when things get out of control. Luckily, RI took on this mission and helped the family breathe life back into their business. As for the renovations, I think I definitely would have left the stone bar in place. I don't like the greenish color on the walls — especially the green and grey combination. I think the green walls should be repainted.

    Also, if things start to slow down int he future…the family my want to consider adding some live entertainment to the menu.

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