Restaurant Revisited: Drowning in Debt at Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant

by in Shows, May 12th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossiblePerhaps one of the most-persistent restaurant owners ever featured on Restaurant: Impossible, Carolyn Cuneo from Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant in DeFuniak Springs, Fla., admitted to Robert Irvine early on that she is “not very good with change.” After her husband, George, passed away six years ago, she’s been hesitant to make any updates to the eatery, a dark, wood-covered space serving mediocre Italian-inspired food. Carolyn was in thousands of dollars of debt, which Robert realized could be attributed to the large amount of free food she regularly gave away to her staff and customers alike. In just two days and with a $10,000 budget, Robert and his team worked with Carolyn to rethink her management habits and ultimately reopen Mom & Dad’s as a thriving restaurant worthy of a second chance. FN Dish checked in with Carolyn a few months after the renovation to find out how the eatery has been doing.

Immediately following the overhaul, Mom & Dad’s saw a 67.7 percent increase in sales. Although the growth has since slowed a bit, “business is still good and it will be a much higher percentage than prior years,” Carolyn says, adding that she’s making stellar progress on paying back her debt.

While some returning customers have been resistant toward the updated decor and menu at the restaurant, first-time diners are pleased with what they’re seeing. Among the list of offerings at Mom & Dad’s are a few original menu items plus the dishes that Robert created. “Customers seem happier with the mix,” Carolyn explains, noting that they “really love the Alfredo, Sausage and Peppers, ’Shrooms, Fried Cheese and Caesar Salad.”

The restaurant staff is no longer giving away salads for free, and they’ve begun to charge for bread by factoring it into the cost of the meal, but Carolyn admits that “[she] still give[s] away cake to people that are having a birthday or anniversary.” Her employees are able to enjoy a free shift meal, although they must choose from specific dishes in order to receive the allowance.

Looking ahead, Carolyn is considering opening on Sundays, but she hasn’t made that transition yet. She’s currently confident in the business and feels good about the changes that were made. “I definitely feel that I am moving forward now. I was stuck in the past in so many ways and without George was not really sure of what to do or how to move the business ahead into the future,” she tells FN Dish. “Restaurant: Impossible and Robert helped me to leave the past behind while keeping George’s spirit and love in my heart.”
Mom and Dad's Italian Restaurant

Mom and Dad’s Italian Restaurant before the renovation
Mom and Dad's Italian Restaurant

Mom and Dad’s Italian Restaurant after the renovation

More From Restaurant Revisited:

Smitty’s Restaurant (April 28)
Old World Italian Restaurant (April 21)
Joe Willy’s Seafood House (April 14)
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 (64)

  1. Mary Cambiatti says:

    Love, love, love it! We just watched this episode but began eating at Mom & Dad's a couple of months ago. We are new to the area and missed our old haunts in Chicago. A friend suggested Mom & Dad's and we have been eating here ever since. The food could best be described as Italian comfort food, it is delicious, the decor is comfortable but puts you in mind do a sidewalk cafe. The owner and staff are friendly and efficient. The prices are very reasonable and they have the best homemade desserts ever. We really love the Fudge on the Bottom Pie, Spumoni and Italian Cream Cake. My favorite entree is the Fettucine Alfredo but I also like the Sausage and Peppers. Order the Caesar Salad you will be glad you did. The fried mushrooms are fabulous, they are fresh not frozen and so are the cheese planks. If I had a complaint it would be about the curb appeal. It could use a little dressing up but other than that we love this place and will keep coming back again and again.

  2. Larry Bryant says:

    Its still a Great Place, and when you see the owner in town, she remembers you and speaks, goes a long way with me, keep it girl, I will drive to you, Great Place.

  3. Pam Doster says:

    My family and I have been eating at this establishment since I was a very young child. It has been a favorite of my families and my all time favorite for years. Very delicious, very authentic and very friendly staff. I cant imagine it needed any updates or changes but if it is working out for the owners then I am proud for them. Cant wait to go visit again soon…. Its about an hour drive from my home, but worth every minute.

  4. Peg Franz says:

    My parents moved to DeFuniak Springs 15 years ago and have taken my family to eat at Mom & Dad's on many occasions, recently while in town for my Mom's funeral 3 weeks ago my Dad treated my family and I to dinner there the last time I had dined there was in January of 2013 and while I enjoyed our service and food I did notice a difference in both this time, even better food and service!! Carolyn personally came to the table and spoke with my family and gave us her condolences on the passing of my mother as my parents are frequent patrons of Mom & Dad's. Having just lost my Mom I totally understand where she is coming from about memories being connected but I think this is a wonderful way to honor George ! As far as being opened on Sundays , I would totally go there after church for a meal but I respectfully understand her choice not to be opened. My prayers are with Carolyn as she works to pay off the debt and she will have my families business when we are in town to visit as well as my Dad's business at least 2 times a month as this is one of his favorite restaurants to eat at!!

  5. Todd says:

    Robert Irvine and the Food Network should be a shamed of the way they treated my sister after the taping of a show in Palm Coast Fla. It truly showed me how self absorbed and selfish these people really are. It was during a taping of the end of one of there soon to be viewed shows that my sister was told she had to participate in a team building session on her day off. This was mandatory. Mr. Irvine with his astute knowledge of NOTHING. Thought it would be a go idea to place the potpourri of body shapes and sizes and athletic abilities out on a field to play KICK BALL. Hell why not Dodge Ball.

    My sister though 56 years old is in decent shape but not in athletic shape. She was told she must participate. During this game my sister was going for the ball and fell. As she laid on the ground in noticeable pain the film crew continued to film. The concern was that they get the footage and not the fact my sister was in great distress. Finally someone thought it was a good idea to get my sis to a Hospital. So…….. where was the medical crew and ambulance support if you are going to do a physical activity. Mr. Irvine and his crew with their vast knowledge in triage felt it best to get my sister up and move her off the taping site. She was accompanied back to the restaurant and given a ride to a Medi Quick by an Irvine assistant. She was left there to find her own ride to the Hospital because they needed to wrap up taping.

    When my sister finally made it to the Emergency room she was told that her shoulder was fractured and she needed surgery at that moment. Surgery left her with a plate and 2 screws and NO job. She is a month into her recovery and to date never once did Irvine or the food Network ever inquire if she was ok. You would think some flowers or a fruit bouquet at least. Their negligence is blatant but there so is their inability to show sympathy and compassion to a person that was injured. Irvine is a cruel, unkind and thoughtless individual. unable to really see people other than as money and another show. Food Network and Robert Irvine should be ashamed.

    Love ya Sis

    Todd E. Langon

  6. clint says:

    Went to this restaurant the other night and it was really nice. The food was great and the atmosphere was good. No complaints other than the sound from the wood flooring and low type ceilings. The show could have added some sound barriers, but overall GREAT!

  7. @JynnMiller says:

    The church on Sundays is a big business. I missed the part as to why she's not opened on Sundays.. but i agree with Robert. But if there are moral reasons why she's not opening on Sunday…then that's her decision…and she'll deal with

    • jack says:

      The Bible calls Sunday a work day Exodus 20:9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. God only commanded folks to keep holy one day and that was the seventh day Sabbath. Check it out in your own Bible!
      From Genesis to Revelation you will not find that God calls Sunday the first day of the week holy. Only the papacy does which they claimed to have changed. Don't believe me check it out for yourselves!

  8. charlie says:

    Alot of folks take Sundays to worship, and not make money JMHO

  9. defuniak resident says:

    thats how this old town wanted it old ways they liked it that way an stated to stop coming unfortunatly defuniak is old stuck in the 50s

  10. I think they hold the results until the show has aired in all time zones.

  11. charlie says:

    Nate- Alot us "regular folks" can figure out how this site works week after week when it comes to the comments so it cant be all that hard right?????

  12. charlie says:

    Flash- There are a couple Chuch's with-in 2 miles of my place and YEP I tried it for a couple of Sundays but my GUT feeling told me to shut it down. Hey even God took a day off ;) My attitude is if I have to work Sundays to make this place work then it ISNT worth it JMHO ;)

  13. Jon says:

    Lol not for long.

  14. Jon says:

    Lol not for long.

  15. Jon says:

    Lol not for long.

  16. @NysGyrl says:

    Way to go Jim! A man who knows his scripture! It is amazing how many people get that wrong and it is really simple if you look at the etymology of the word WEEKENDS. The word is a simple compound word that any 3rd grader could figure out! A week is like a sting it has two ends the beginning (Sunday) and the end (Saturday). No matter how a calendar lines it up (because so start the week with Sunday) the ends of the week are always the same. So DBock – – Keep the SABBATH (SATURDAY) HOLY! If you were Jewish you would already know that!

  17. PssttCmere says:

    Could not agree more….she might be better off opening Sundays and closing on Mondays. If her real goal is to get out of debt and keep her restaurant open, she should, at least, give it a try. As nice as she is, she should concentrate on NOT shooting herself in the foot!!

  18. Marjorie says:

    Rather than opening on Sundays they should consider lunch service once they are more stable and Carolyn can find a competent assistant manager and staff to help during that time. I never advocate a business opening on Sundays if they do not wish to do so.

  19. frances says:

    thank you for the times I just seen it on the show today i record it every time it is on.and I recognized the name and outside since people usually don't eat dinner by 2 pm I figured it would be open to like at least 7 pm.and it seems like we are just coming after it is already closed oh well seems like they would rather be closed more then open no wonder they are doing bad .

  20. Nonnie says:

    I was not mocking, I was stating my honest opinion; of which I am entitled. Further more, it was regarding the shutters and nothing more.

  21. Valley girl says:

    Well Chuck, if he goes in there sugar coating it (much like others have done already) they want wake up, and realize the problem. In your face is the whole purpose. He is not there to babysit. These are adults not babies, so they can deal with it.

  22. @Local_Man says:

    Another thing to remember: This is a TV show. It needs TV worthy moments to be entertaining. The restaurant owners get $10,000 in materials and who knows how much labor, plus Robert's hard work and expertise to turn their restaurants around, plus a huge amount of publicity. Without the entertaining TV show, they would get nothing. Part of the appeal of the show is how Robert is tough with people at first, then brings them along as the show goes on.

  23. Aaron says:

    Valley girl is 100% correct, it may seem heartless but in Valley girls statement. The owners have already tried to do things their way and it's been proven it doesn't work. By doing this in your face type of approach it opens the owners eyes in a way they can not deny whats going on.

  24. April says:

    No kidding! Biggest bunch of cheapskates ever. I guess they figure their server will get their reward in heaven.

  25. LLF says:

    Colossians 2:16,17, Romans 2-4 (Law of Sabbath), Romans 14:5, these are just a few scriptures but according to the Bible, there is not only one day but EVERYDAY God deserves our time and obedience. No day is holier than another for true christians. Sabbath was first a law so that people would take the time show love and deserving obedience to the creator all of us. That law was null, according to the Bible, with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

  26. LLF says:

    As only a single day that is, not null in our obedience to God.

  27. Mike says:

    Imagine if if were a black church……………………..

  28. GoingHomeOneDay says:

    This is not true. As a Christian, I am commanded to keep the Sabbath. But back to Mission: Impossible….

  29. Cindy says:

    SDA do too!

  30. Rob G says:

    What do you mean by that Mike?

  31. E. Chesser says:

    No Norma, they don't open until 4:30 P.M. They don't take reservations so just come on over. It's a great place to eat. Closed Sunday and Monday.

  32. mad as hell says:

    this womens husband ran the biz i live in defuniak springs an u better watch who ur calling an idiot ur an ass

  33. angel says:

    definatly i agree my husbands family have lived here for several generations an the outside world of defuniak just wont understand

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