Food Network's Restaurant: Impossible, the makeover show for struggling restaurants, hosted by Robert Irvine of Dinner: Impossible fame, aired its episode featuring Meglio's Italian Grill and Bar (12490 St. Charles Rock Road, Bridgeton; 314-344-1010) last night. With a two-day timeframe and $10,000, the episode's mission was to revamp the Bridgeton restaurant's menu, décor, staff and management.
Meglio's is owned by John Meglio, who opened the place in order to carry on the family culinary tradition: The Meglios owned and operated Luigi's restaurants from 1953 to 1981. The show focused on John Meglio's lack of experience and the restaurant's identity crisis, and both concerns culminated in the revelation that most of the menu items -- even the toasted ravioli! -- were being made from frozen ingredients.
Irvine kicked Meglio out of the restaurant for 48 hours while redecorating and retraining the staff. The celebrity chef instructed the kitchen crew how to fillet a fish and cleaned up the menu. (Click to view new menu; you can tell it's mod from the Papyrus font!) The Luigi's pizza was the only dish on the original menu Irvine deemed acceptable; he consoled Meglio by noting that that the treasured family recipe is "not bad."
Host Irvine is a mass of incongruities: in need of good PR, and the corporeal equivalent of a mullet -- nerdy Brit from the neck up, Venice Beach physique below. The drama of last night's episode was manufactured and consisted of Irvine barking at his interior decorator about money and time constraints and fretting that they'd miss the (arbitrarily scheduled) "grand reopening."
Had any of the tension come from Meglio, it might have been more interesting, but the restaurateur put up zero resistance to Irvine's imposed changes. The former wholesale electrical-equipment rep came off as optimistic and fragile (he welled up on-camera multiple times, whether at the thought of his second mortgage or his family tradition), the captain of a sinking ship who'd never learned to sail.
The final scene was a predictably successful reopening night, with Irvine intoning that he hoped the $10K makeover bought Meglio "the chance to create his own legacy."
Gut Check caught up with Meglio for a brief chat during today's lunch rush. The show taped this past November. Now that it has finally aired, what does the restaurateur think of the entire experience?
"We thought it could have gotten ugly, but it didn't," Meglio says. "It was put together very well."
And how's business?
"With the weather, January was what it was, but we're hoping with the TV show to see another uptick."