by Maria Russo in Shows, December 5th, 2013
by Maria Russo in Shows, November 21st, 2013
It was father versus son at Michael’s Porthole in Oceanside, N.Y., when Rocco DiSpirito entered the restaurant for the first time. Specializing in seafood, this waterfront eatery was on the brink of closure after a series of devastating accidents and natural tragedies, and while owner Mike Rodonis Sr. was committed to making its fish-focused menu work long-term, his son, Mike Rodonis Jr., who is also the chef at the restaurant, believed that a brand-new Italian concept was needed to jump-start the restaurant’s profitability. Rocco had no choice but to divided the space and pursue both ideas before ultimately determining which offered the greatest opportunity for lasting success.
Working with his Restaurant Divided team, Rocco transformed one half of the interior of Michael’s Porthole into Mike Jr.’s Il Portello, serving Italian-inspired appetizers, and converted the other half into Mike Sr.’s Canal House Grill, a made-over version of the existing restaurant. Rocco helped both guys tweak their menus to be both business-smart and appealing to customers, then the father and son served separate meals to customers and critics alike. After considering both business’ viability and hearing from diners, Rocco announced that the concept of Il Portello is stronger.
by Maria Russo in Shows, November 14th, 2013
For Phil and Robin Schmidt, the struggling business at Phamous Phil’s BBQ & Grille didn’t just lead to an inability to pay bills; it created a significant amount of tension in their marriage as well. These husband-and-wife owners run the nearly four-year-old eatery in Collegeville, Pa., but after accruing $140,000 of debt, they decided to welcome Rocco DiSpirito and his Restaurant Divided team to the restaurant in the hopes of jump-starting profitability once and for all. They both realized the need for change, although Robin’s idea for pursuing a chop house concept in place of the barbecue menu didn’t appeal to Phil, who was committed to his smoky offerings.
Before Rocco could attempt to salvage Phamous Phil’s, and ultimately Phil and Robin’s marriage, he divided it, separating the space into two restaurants — a made-over Phamous Phil’s run by Phil himself and Robin’s Chop Shop, complete with mahogany-clad walls — for only one night of service. He worked with both teams to create deliciously approachable menus, and when the eateries opened to local diners and critics alike, both Phil and Robin managed to dish out crowd-pleasing plates. After examining the restaurants’ likelihoods of success, he ultimately reopened the business as Phamous Phil’s, as it offered the greatest opportunity for lasting viability.
by Maria Russo in Shows, November 7th, 2013
“Anytime you mix friendship with business, there’s always inherent conflict, and you can see it’s sort of coming to the surface,” Restaurant Divided‘s Rocco DiSpirito said not long after arriving at Against Da Grill, a Staten Island, N.Y., eatery specializing in diner-style classics. Co-owners Kurron Mangin and Vinny Lima — the chef and the business manager at Against Da Grill, respectively — are longtime best friends facing imminent closure of their restaurant if they can’t turn around the business. While Kurron is committed to maintaining the original diner concept at Against Da Grill, Vinny believes a change is in order and proposed they begin serving traditional barbecue instead. “I feel that the Island is missing that,” Vinny explained. “If we could bring something that no one else is doing, we have a better chance at success.”
The team at Against Da Grill is a tightknit one: The staff is like family, and the restaurant is well-ingrained in the community. So for Rocco to decide what the best next step should be for Against Da Grill, he ultimately divided it. After a complete interior overhaul and menu redesign, Kurron served customers at the new Against Da Grill while Vinny ran S.I.Q. on the other side of the restaurant. Rocco listened to customer and critic feedback, tasted dishes from both eateries and reviewed both restaurants’ chances for lasting success before deciding that S.I.Q. offered the most opportunity for viability.
by Maria Russo in Shows, October 31st, 2013
After years of unprofitability and a staggering debt of almost $50,000, the three co-owners of Maggie’s Farm in Baltimore faced a crucial crossroads that would ultimately determine if and how the eatery would ever see future success. One owner, Laura Merino, was adamant in her belief that her restaurant needed to stick to its farm-to-table concept to have any chance at future success, while her partners — the chef, Andrew Weinzirl, who’s also her fiancé, and the general manager, Matthew Weaver — maintained that an all-new Southern-skewed concept would be most beneficial in relaunching Maggie’s. Before he could help the owners come together in agreement, Rocco DiSpirito had to first divide them further, and the only way to do so was to begin a Restaurant Divided takeover.
Working with his design team, Rocco split the space at Maggie’s into two eateries and let diners and restaurant critics speak to which restaurant they’d most want to return. Laura ran the made-over, garden-inspired Maggie’s Farm that featured its signature fresh cuisine; Andrew and Matthew opened the speakeasy-bar hybrid Speakgreazy, a red-walled space with plush seating serving Southern favorites. While both concepts proved able to attract guests and dish out quality plates, 25 percent more customers were more willing to return to Laura’s restaurant, Maggie’s, than they were to the guys’ Speakgreazy. Knowing this and having dined at both establishments, Rocco ultimately revealed that the original business, Maggie’s, would afford the group the best chance at lasting viability.
by Maria Russo in Shows, October 25th, 2013
Caught between her bickering fiancé, Neil Vaswani, and her mother, Terry Kipriadis, Vicky Giannakos explained: “My mother. She’s stubborn like a bull. Neil is also stubborn like a bull.” Terry opened Gyros & Goodies in Washington Township, N.J., three years ago, and Neil supported the venture as a substantial partner. But now that the Greek-focused restaurant is facing a mountain of financial struggles, Neil’s convinced the eatery should relaunch with a Mexican concept, while Terry is committed to Mediterranean fare. “The restaurant can’t continue like this, and as a family, we can’t continue like this,” Vicky admitted, just in time for Rocco DiSpirito and a Restaurant Divided transformation to decide the fate of her family’s business once and for all.
After sampling made-over menu items and overhauling the interior of the restaurant, Rocco welcomed everyday diners and esteemed restaurateurs alike for dinner at two concepts — the blue-and-white-clad Gyros & Goodies, run by Terry, and The Township Cantina, a bright spot staffed by Neil — in the same space. The future of Terry’s business, however, was ultimately in Rocco’s hands, as he number crunched profitability estimates and spoke with customers before eventually deeming Terry’s Gyros & Goodies more likely to succeed than Neil’s Mexican endeavor.
Brother and sister Larry and Laura Vecchio, and their mother, Antoinette, were being torn apart over the decision on how to rescue their failing Italian restaurant, Mia Famiglia. And they desperately needed a cohesive plan for the future — not a division in the business or their family. But that’s exactly what Rocco DiSpirito gave them when he arrived at their Long Island City, N.Y., restaurant.
On the series premiere of Restaurant Divided, Rocco and his team transformed the space within Mia Famiglia into two separate restaurants: Larry’s Communal Steak, a chic yet comfortable steakhouse with communal seating, and Laura’s Mac House, a Yankees-clad sports bar specializing in macaroni and cheese. For one night, both eateries served customers side by side and tried to prove their long-term staying power. After hearing from food critics, listening to customers and tasting the food from both menus, however, Rocco decided that the steakhouse offered the Vecchios the best chance for success, and he ultimately reopened Mia Famiglia as Larry’s Communal Steak.
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