We've finally reached the finale of this season of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay. For his final restaurant rehab for the year, Ramsay visits Bella Luna in Easton, Pennsylvania. The Italian restaurant is owned by Rosario Scollo, and she bought it for her son Gianfranco after he completed culinary school. When I finished school I got a necklace and some passive aggressive law school applications, but good for Gianfranco for swinging such a prize.
In addition to her one son, Rosario's other son Maurizio manages the restaurant, and they employ a handful of others as waitstaff and cooks. We never get to meet and hear from the runners, busboys, and dishwashers, which is probably because none of the restaurants want to admit to employing people who are here less than legally.
Footage of the restaurant shows that customers routinely send back their food because it's poorly cooked, poorly seasoned, or has one or two decorative hairs on the plate. Traci, who is one of the managers and certainly not a hair model, hits the nail on the head claiming the restaurant looks like a morgue. Well, it looks like a morgue with owners who cleaned up at a Party City liquidation sale. Aside from the grim interiors, Traci astutely notes that Rosario is highly disorganized and not really the leader that the staff needs her to be.
Ramsay pulls up to the parking lot and before he is fully out of his car Traci accosts him and throws her arms around his neck. She is incredibly grateful that he has come to help the restaurant. She, like almost every other woman who has been on this show, notes that Ramsay smells nice. I'm really curious as to what it is he smells like, my guess is it's not sunscreen. While describing the status of Bella Luna, Traci tells Gordon that she runs a 50 Shades of Grey bingo night, and then this is never addressed again. I now consider it the eighth wonder of the world.
When Ramsay talks with Rosario inside, she makes it clear that they serve fresh food, never frozen, and that she thinks the reason people don't like her food is that they are so used to bad, frozen food that they don't appreciate authentic, fresh dishes. At first I thought this was an insane claim, and then I remembered that after years of dating selfish nightmares, when a guy recently took me to dinner and said I looked nice, I crossed my arms and said, "What do you mean by that?" so she may have a point here about people being conditioned to like garbage.
Ramsay sits down for his usual lunch in his usual striped v-neck t-shirt. He orders the veal saltimbocca, penne alla vodka, and the mussels marinara. Gianfranco is back in the kitchen preparing the dishes and sweating like he's in a Bikram yoga class.
While Ramsay is waiting a waify waitress named Nicole walks by. He stops her and asks her a bit about the restaurant. Her slow response made me think she might be high, then they panned out and we saw she has flowers in her hair, and then I knew she was high. Traci thinks she's a moron, and I'm on Traci the chia-pet's side on this one.
The veal arrives and looks like a pastel watercolor, something food should never look like. When I imagine Italian food, I think of vibrant colors, but this looked like the saddest Easter egg ever spread on a plate. The veal is wildly overcooked and under-seasoned and there's so much flour in the sauce that it's forming solid clumps.
Next out is the penne alla vodka. At least the color doesn't look as watered down as the veal. Before Ramsay even takes a bite he picks some yellowing herbs off the top and just hands them to Traci. In terms of taste, he says the dish, "tastes like baby vomit." I was about to yell at the TV, "Well how do you know what baby vomit tastes like??" but at the moment I had my mouth open under the spout from a box of wine trying to get out the last drops of Chablis, so glass houses or whatever.
Traci brings out the final dish, which is the mussels marinara. It's way more marinara than it is mussels. In fact, there are so few shellfish that it looks like they were put on the dish by accident. Kind of like, "Oh how did those get in there?" Ramsay is disappointed by the number of mussels and also how chewy they are, so he asks if they are fresh or frozen. Traci and Gianfranco confirm that they are frozen, despite Rosario and the menu's claim that the food is all fresh.
When Gianfranco has to explain to Ramsay and the staff why they are serving frozen mussels, he claims that with such a large menu he cannot keep fresh mussels, so they freeze them. He says he wanted to take them off the menu, Rosario claims she doesn't know what he's talking about. It's more he said/she said than a couple's Saturday afternoon fight at Ikea.
Ramsay returns to Bella Luna to observe dinner service in the kitchen. He asks how the line works only to learn that they don't even have proper tickets for orders, just scraps of paper like you're writing down your Time Warner bill pay confirmation on after you pay by phone because you forgot again. He hears one of the cooks say to defrost the shrimp in the microwave, meaning that mussels aren't the only frozen food being served. Then he sees a pool of pinkish water sitting in the sink and learns it's from defrosting frozen chicken. Basically everything is being frozen.
Considering the amount of food being thawed, Ramsay decides to inspect the freezer and the walk-in. The freezer has bins upon bins of chicken breasts frozen together solid. Rosario repeatedly tells him, "We get this in fresh, then freeze it," and doesn't see how that means she serves frozen food. Again and again she repeats, "Our food is fresh," not putting together that once it goes in a freezer, it's frozen. Just like once you spill an entire glass of red wine on yourself, your shirt is ruined (and also you're "a mess" according to the waiter).
Ramsay heads to the walk-in, which is a standard disaster like all of the other episodes: moldy food, aging produce, vats of unidentifiable meats. And Rosario has an excuse for every item. She says the avocados are hers, and the broccoli rabe is from her brother's wedding, which if either were true, why is she still holding on to them? They're far beyond the point of edible and are moldy enough to just be penicillin.
We've reached the breaking point and Ramsay asks Traci and her hair to go shut down service in the dining room. Once the patrons leave (and are obviously better off considering someone sent back a dish that had hair in it), Ramsay tries to have yet another come-to-Jesus talk with Rosario who refuses to believe she's in over her head even though she has repeatedly admitted to it. Between her and Gianfranco, it's really just a circle jerk of denial.
The next day Ramsay brings the whole staff to some public service building and explains they are all going on trial for their behavior in the restaurant. Traci takes to the whole thing so well that I think she should give up on managing Bella Luna and pursue a career in public office. She can still host 50 Shades of Grey bingo on the side, though. Everyone's criticisms are as expected: Rosario is a doormat, Gianfranco has no passion, I'm never going to get married. Oh wait, that wasn't on the show, that was a voicemail from my mom.
After the staff members have defended their bad behavior, Ramsay fills the room with locals who have dined at Bella Luna to air their grievances to Rosario and the staff. Everyone complains about the food, and one woman cites that she got a sour cannoli, which sounds like a sex move, but like, not one I want to ever try.
So an afternoon pretending to be politicians has turned everyone around and they are now fit to run a restaurant and operate a business, apparently. Ramsay brings everyone to the new and improved Bella Luna. Obviously Rosario and the team love the new furniture and Kitchen Nightmares signature metal pots with succulent plants as centerpieces. They also love the new menu, which is considerably smaller, but frozen food-free.
For the relaunch, Ramsay invites many of the patrons who complained about the restaurant in the town hall. They, like the staff, also love the new look and are raving about the food. And like in every episode, dinner service starts out running smoothly, but halfway through, things get rocky. Gianfranco is a bit overwhelmed, mostly because now orders are written on proper tickets and not loose paper or ripped up envelopes or whatever Traci was using before. He plates a disaster of a lasagna and Ramsay loses it.
He takes him outside while holding the sub-par plate and yells at him to get his act together. Before going inside he makes a point to throw the plate of food on the ground. The most shocking thing about the whole scene is that the plate didn't break on impact. It was fine. And now I have to go and buy whatever those were since I broke a plate in my kitchen yesterday by dropping it. Well, more like throwing it toward the floor like a frisbee, but whatever.
The staff survives the night and look forward to a new life for Bella Luna as Ramsay leaves. Sadly, in the epilogue we learn that due to landlord issues, the restaurant closed and they are looking for a new location. Nothing like ending a season with the opposite of a success story!