Restaurant Revisited: Something’s Fishy at Joe Willy’s Seafood House

by in Shows, April 14th, 2013

Robert IrvineJoe and Dena White, owners of Joe Willy’s Seafood House in Fishkill, N.Y., looked to Robert Irvine to save not only their restaurant but their family too, as the stress of their declining business had put a load of frustration and tension between them. It was up to Robert to hone in on the most-critical issues plaguing Joe Willy’s and work with his Restaurant: Impossible team to attempt to fix them in only two days and with just $10,000. He quickly learned that many of the restaurant’s problems stemmed from its poor-quality food, made by Joe, the head chef, so he focused his efforts on implementing an improved menu that Joe could execute with ease. After 48 hours of renovations, Joe Willy’s reopened to a dining room full of guests with Joe and Dena at the helm, now working harmoniously. We checked in with Dena a few months after the transformation to find out how Joe Willy’s is doing.

Since its Restaurant: Impossible experience, the restaurant has enjoyed a significant boost in business, Dena says, explaining that “sales have tripled to quadrupled at times.” Since they’re now making a profit, Dena notes that it’s “much easier to pay bills, rent and staff, and make improvements,” and says that they’ve begun to catch up on their debt.

Diners and management alike have been wowed by the changes in decor in the dining room, particularly the bar that Robert added. It’s perhaps one of the most-important renovations to take place at the restaurant, Dena tells us. “Not only is the bar one of the keys to our success, but it brings in extra cash.” She adds that the new sign is likely responsible for drawing in first-time patrons.

Robert’s custom menu, too, has garnered rave reviews from guests, who especially enjoy the Pan Seared Scallops and Shrimp Topped Salmon. Dena adds, however, that customers “were also demanding that [they] bring back items on [their] ‘old’ menu,” so the eatery now features a combined list of offerings.

Joe has yet to pursue culinary training, but Dena tells us that he “finds himself watching Food Network almost every night when he comes home.” He’s embracing a more proper leadership role, delegating tasks to staff and tempering inappropriate outbursts, and recently he “got everything fixed” in the kitchen, which now features a brand-new dishwasher, according to Dena.

Dena has reduced her hours at her other job to just one shift per week, and she and Joe have enjoyed more time to themselves, as they’ve decreased the restaurant’s operating hours. “Our decision to close for lunch Tuesday through Thursday has given us a little more time for us,” she says. “We feel a little more human.”

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Sweet Tea’s Restaurant & Catering (March 24)
Soup to Nuts Diner (March 17)
Caseyville Cafe (March 13)
Maniaci’s Italian Restaurant (March 10)
Dinner Bell Restaurant (February 27)
Nanny Goat’s Cafe & Feed Bin (February 20)
Sapori D’Italia (January 23)
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 (193)

  1. I hope in time Dena can devote her time to being with her Husband and the restaurant ,,

  2. Bill says:

    I hope joe's wife the best.He doesnt deserve a wife as nice as Dena. If she was smart she would run as far as she can. You can tell from the show he has no emotion whats so ever.His kids had so much more emotion.When asked if he wanted a wife or an employee he said he couldnt answer that. Dena deserves soooo much more.

  3. britt says:

    went to joe willys before the make over and it was gross the bathroom was gross the food tasted out of the can went to joe willys last night 4/23/13 ordered raw oysters as an app and they came out frozen sat for an hour with dirty dishes and they my boyfriend "fresh" water while we waited for his drink the water came from another table that had sauce and an eaten lemon in the bottom clearly not ours from the get go and on top of that the bathrooms are still gross and pasta sauce is out of the can on top of many other complaints needless to say never going back.

  4. Sasha says:

    He was NOT very nice to his wife on the show, however, I think a lot of things were changing and he probably felt like he was being backed into a corner on national t.v. I will give him the benefit of the doubt in saying, I hope he realizes now how stupid he really sounded. Watching himself I am sure has opened his eyes, sounds like he got the dishwasher, controlling his temper and spending extra time with his family. The food is great, and the restaurant is beautiful and clean. I will definitely be going back. I am not sure how I would react if I had been in the same situation. I may have came off as a beotch who really knows. Everyone responds differently to situations. He seem much nicer to me. just saying.

  5. dcarolyn says:

    I really liked this show..I hope it works out for the family,,, does anyone remember the salmon and shrimp dish he made for this restaurant?

    • magda says:

      I do remember it. This is why i was looking into the episode i'd like the recipe too…ugh i should've paid closer attention. Would love to hear if anyone remember it.

  6. FoodNetwork #1 says:

    Why was my comment immediately deleted?

  7. Love FN says:

    Joe was in serious denial. He kept telling his wife 'It will be okay' yet she's the one working extra jobs and owing family money. How humiliating. She's probably the one that took a pro-active position and contacted the show. Joe even put on an unsure half-smile at the reveal while the rest of his family was elated. He probably realized then that all his empty promises never brought his family relief from all the stress. What would the world do without women? I hope the restaurant is doing well and the family is happy.

  8. BajanCook says:

    I decided to visit this restaurant for my birthday, unfortunately it is still Restaurant Impossible. The calamaria is fresh out of the freezer as is the fried fish. How do you mess up fries??!!! The service was so so. There is no wine chiller, just a cooler you would take on a picnic (no kidding).

    • Non Snake Eater says:

      Calamaria is a large genus of dwarf burrowing snakes of the family Colubridae. It contains 60 recognized species. They are found in Asia.

      What the hell are you eating snakes for?!?!?

  9. Holly says:

    You could clearly see how unhappy Dena was, she said from the beginning she didn’t want to open a restaurant. Her husband is a selfish control freak who has no respect for his wife who has to waitress at another restaurant to make ends meet, imagine the humiliation, the owner of a restaurant has to work at another restaurant just to meet her family’s needs. I hope the place flourishes, all the debt paid off and them she divorced the s.o.b. and gets everything she can. Everything is his way or the highway including how many hours his wife works at his restaurant and then another job. This lady needs to wake up and get rid of this louse she calls a husband.

    • ~ SlowUrRole ~ says:

      sounds like you have a few issues of your own

    • jjmclure says:

      it's called stand by your man

    • Amanda says:

      I agree with you Holly! I felt that the shoe was very hard on Dena. The opening bit when Robert asked her (in a pretty aggressive tone) "are you in?" seemed harsh. My gosh, the woman is waitressing at another restaurant, running the front of the house at hers, washing dishes, waiting tables….. If that's not evidence of devotion then I don't know what is. And as usual, the boorish owner is handled with kid gloves by Robert-who seems convinced that fixing families and soothing hurt egos is more important than forcing owners to realize how horribly they treat their families and staff.

    • Mike says:

      You are supposed to leave comments if you have been to the restaurant and tell us what you think about the place. NOT talk about the show!!!!!! Who cares what you have to say about the show, we just want to know how the restaurant is doing after Robert left…….

    • Shirley says:

      Holly you go girl I watched the show also , talk about ego this excuse for a husband/manager is the pitts. He should be fried and thrown back in the water. He is the Fishy one of the place. Hold
      your nose there is a stink in the air.

  10. Cheri says:

    I've driven past Joe Willy's dozens of times since they opened. Never been in the place. Honestly, it was one of their previous signs that kind of grossed me out. The new sign Robert had installed I think is their third in 5 years. The first sign I saw really turned me off because I could swear it said "Joe Willy's Fish and Ice Cream". Now maybe they were a seafood restaurant but were also trying a secondary business by selling ice cream next to a water park. But the thought that popped in my head every time I saw that sign was fish ice cream and it sounded disgusting. Never considered eating there after seeing that.

    • confusedaboutcheri says:

      I'm confused….if you've never eaten at this restaurant, why are you commenting on RI?

    • Mr. Blue to you says:

      Cheri, you call yourself an American and you've never had smelt fish ice cream? The heads of smelt fish are very tender, and their little faces seem to smile up at you through the frozen ice cream. The one thing to remember is to swallow the fish with the head pointing down at your stomach, or the scales will get stuck and the fish will never go down easily. With these helpful tips, your smelt fish ice cream will be a wonderful experience, today, and tomorrow!

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