On this episode of "Kitchen Nightmares," Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Anaheim, California, to help the owners of Luigi's D'Italia, an embattled Italian restaurant. In 1981, a promising young chef named Luigi fulfilled a lifelong dream and opened the eatery with the help of his father, Dominick. In 1999 Dominick retired to Italy, and Luigi's brother, Tony, stepped in to help with the business.
But the brothers' management styles immediately began to clash. Now the arguments and tension between Luigi, Tony, and Luigi's wife, Grace, are spilling over into the dining room, making patrons extremely uncomfortable.
The restaurant is $1.5 million in debt, and Luigi admits that unless things change they can only stay open for another month. He laments, "If I have to close the doors, I will feel like I failed my father and everything that we worked for together."
Chef Ramsay arrives and is intrigued by the fact that the restaurant's website says that the chef is 22 years old - he must be a hot young up-and-comer. So Chef Ramsay is bemused to learn that Luigi is, in fact, 51 and that the bio on the site was written more than 30 years ago.
Still, Chef Ramsay is encouraged by what he calls a "proper family restaurant." Luigi introduces him to the family members who are helping him run the restaurant: his wife, his daughter, his nephew, and his brother and his wife. But when the chef sits them down to discuss the problems, it's immediately apparent that the family is fractured. Chef Ramsay is baffled as Luigi, Tony, and Grace break out into a heated argument right in front of him.
After this shocking introduction, Gordon looks at the 126-item menu and orders several dishes so that he can sample the cuisine. As he waits for the food, he notices that the décor looks "stuck in a time warp," as if it's not been updated since 1981.
Chef Ramsay tries the five-cheese stuffed fried ravioli, the mahi mahi fish special, and the linguine pescatore. To his dismay, he finds the food "horrible," "disgusting," and "dreadful." The chef goes back to the kitchen and tells a very defensive Luigi that the problem is that he's been preparing his food the same way for 20 years. "You've lost your sparkle," Chef Ramsay tells him.
That night at dinner service, Chef Ramsay is hoping to see something positive as guests begin to arrive. Luigi wants to prove to Gordon that his kitchen runs "like a smooth machine." But when the diners start sending the food back as quickly as it goes out, Luigi once again puts up his guard. Tempers start to flare, and Luigi walks out.
Tony tries to persuade his brother to return to the kitchen and take Chef Ramsay's constructive criticism so they can save the business. When Luigi calms down and comes back from his break, Chef Ramsay tells him, "There's something quite remarkable about how hard you work, but I want you working smarter."
The next day, Chef Ramsay greets Tony, Luigi, and their wives and asks them to watch on a monitor as he meets with the staff. The employees complain that there's no quality control and that they get stressed out from all the tension. They also inform Chef Ramsay that the arguing within the family is affecting the dining room and that Grace is the biggest offender.
After hearing how everyone feels about her, Grace breaks down crying, saying that she wants to quit. Chef Ramsay tells her that he's sorry she's upset, but they can't fix the restaurant without fixing one another first. When the four owners join their staff in the dining room, Chef Ramsay reminds them that they must work together as a family to save the business.
After the meeting, the family retreats to the kitchen with Chef Ramsay for a cooking lesson and a sausage-making session. During the exercise, Luigi slowly rediscovers his passion.
But Chef Ramsay has one more surprise for them: a videotaped message from their father in Italy. Dominick pleads with his sons to "love each other and work together like me." The teary-eyed family is reminded of how and why they began the business. They vow to start fresh in the morning.
After the emotional words from Dominick, Chef Ramsay's team works through the night to give Luigi's a facelift. When the staff arrives, the tension and anger have been replaced by joy and rejuvenation. Gordon also presents the family with the revamped menu, and they sample the dishes they will soon be creating for their customers. Luigi says, "I'll be proud to serve this food."
That night they reopen Luigi's, and for a first time in a long time there's positive energy in the restaurant. Stunning food is coming out of the kitchen, and the diners love the new menu.
While the chefs are quickly filling orders, a logjam develops in the dining room when Tony and Luigi stop coordinating. Chef Ramsay pleads with Luigi to control his temper and instructs Tony to step it up and deliver the food to the diners. After the brief snafu, the brothers get back on track and the patrons are enjoying their Italian meals.
After dinner service is complete, Gordon says, "The passion is back in Luigi's." He begs Tony and Luigi to stay on the path they have started down. Over the next few weeks Luigi's wins a rave review from the local OC Weekly newspaper, and the restaurant begins to regain its reputation in the community. Best of all, the family is working together in harmony.
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