Restaurant Revisited: A Pie in the Sky at Aponte’s Pizzeria

by in Shows, August 25th, 2013

Robert Irvine on Restaurant: ImpossibleFacing nearly a quarter of a million dollars in debt, Tony Aponte looked to Robert Irvine and the Restaurant: Impossible team to give his Mason, Ohio, business, Aponte’s Pizzeria, a second chance at success. Tony had been working in pizzerias since he was 11 years old and purchased Aponte’s just eight years ago. But during that time, he hadn’t made a single change to the menu. “I grew up on it, and I stick by it,” Tony said of his food. Ultimately, it was this menu that Robert deemed to be the root of Aponte’s downfall. “There’s just no taste to anything,” Robert said simply, noting that the dingy decor and difficult-to-navigate entrance didn’t improve the overall dining experience. With only two days and a $10,000 budget, Robert got to work on breaking down the self-described “bull-headed” Tony and transforming Aponte’s into a thriving pizzeria once again. FN Dish caught up with Tony a few months after his business reopened to find out how it’s doing today.

After a rocky start, Tony is adjusting to the changes at Aponte’s. Robert’s improvements have boosted the restaurant’s bottom line, with a 60 percent increase in sales at the end of June.

Although a few of the old plates are back on the menu, Robert’s custom-made dishes are still featured at the pizzeria. Tony tells Dish that nearly all of the customers are happy with the new offerings, especially the Salmon Tapenade and Chicken Parmesan.

The contemporary design has been well received by diners; as Tony explains, “95 percent of the customers love it.”

Tony adds that he’s micromanaging his team less now and is indeed more accepting of change than he was before Robert arrived. “I am looking forward to what the future will bring to [the] restaurant, my family and me.”

More from Restaurant Revisited:

Benner Street (July 28)
Hurley’s American Grille (July 21)
Kalico Kitchen (July 14)
Angelo’s (June 23)
Pier West Restaurant (June 16)
Pinehurst Country Lodge (June 9)
Bryan’s Smokehouse (May 26)
Wagon Wheel Family Restaurant (May 19)
Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant (May 12)
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 (58)

  1. Ray says:

    Best wishes …keep up the hard work…feed them folks good, Italian foods……

  2. MattfromWA says:

    F.N. sure didn't do a good job making sure people knew that there was a new episode this week. I watched Chopped and some other F.N. programs before this episode aired and saw no ads for it. Usually, F.N. is pretty good about letting people know when there is a new episode of ANY of their shows. Hope they do better about advertising when Season 7 begins.

  3. MoHub says:

    Even the people who liked it post-RI said the food was good to begin with, and the problems were in other areas.

  4. Eva says:

    Why the background music? Can't hear people talk. Always loved the show.

  5. Jason says:

    Lynn is Robert's best designer. Personally, I thought the "designer" ideas at Aponte's were cheazy at best. Many may beg to differ, but my style does not conform to Cheryl's.

  6. TINA says:


  7. Diana says:

    I was going to go and try it but I do not want the old menu. Good luck in the future. When something doesn't work, Change is good

  8. Scot says:

    There are successful restaurants that keep the same menu for many decades and still draw loyal customers. I'm surprised Robert said the food flat out sucked and didn't respect the tradition. I enjoyed the episode.

    • lovingbears2 says:

      I wasn't surprised, considering the owner himself admitted to Robert, after tasting his own dish, that the sauce was flat, then said that he used the same sauce in every dish on the table. Tradition is fine, if it is a good tradition, but if the sauce is flat, and tasteless, all the dishes will also be. What would be the point of Robert respecting that? He was there to help, not say," keep up what you are doing", as it obviously WASN'T working.

      I agree that these restaurants should stick with Robert's menu for a longer time, and give it a chance, as just reverting back means that you are losing that new edge you just got. Also, keeping the sauce overcooking is a sure way to ruin it, as one patron noted on a visit after RI. If you make a good sauce, don't keep it burning on the stove, or you just make it flat and ruin the taste! I hope they get it together, as they seemed like a very nice family, and they need to take to heart what they learned, as well as increase their customer service skills and promptness in the waitstaff as noted above. Best of luck to them!

    • david kaye says:

      Loving Bears reply was essentially what I was going to say. If the tried and true is working, fine. If it's not, change the friggin' thing. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. Keeping something just for the sake of tradition doesn't make sense. You keep it because it's still wonderful and people want it. Any other excuse to keep it makes as much business sense as offering a discount for week old food.

  9. jen says:

    I think that apontes looks so much better now I love the décor. I also think that the one cook Derek was a great catch because he talked very well and knew what he was doing. I would come just to see him he was hot!!!!!

  10. Chris in Louisville says:

    Restaurant Impossible just filmed an episode here in Louisville that will be airing Nov 6th. I went to that restaurant recently and got the scoop on the event. A lot of this "drama" is made for tv. But, what I also know is that 9 out of 10 restaurants revert back to a partial menu of old dishes. In my opinion, it is the kiss of death. I pleaded with the owners of the Louisville restaurant to PLEASE don't give up on the RI menu because if you're failing, then you have nothing to lose. Going backward is a guarantee of failure. No successful business in any industry takes a step back and becomes more successful. That's asinine to believe differently.

    (To Aponte's) But understandably, change is hard. Aponte's is no different – nor is any other restaurant featured on this show. Ultimately, you (as an entrepreneur) MUST dare to be different. You must give something a chance to be liked. You must be passionate and positive about your new offerings – regardless of your own pride. And you must pay attention to the success of others – whether you like it or not – it is the roadmap you must use to creating your own success. STAY WITH THE NEW MENU GUYS!!! If you have a POS system, you can track what sells and what doesn't. But I wouldn't change anything until you have at least 12 months under your belt. Also – there are TONS of publications about the Pizza industry out there. Being in a city that headquarters Papa Johns and Pizza Hut (Yum Brands), it's unavoidable to not hear something about the pizza industry around here on a daily basis. I would strongly urge you to check out the multitudes of Pizza publications to identify trends in the marketplace. Might help you spot something for your area!! Good luck! Great show!

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