Written by Allison Lips
Restaurant Divided is standard Food Network fare. There’s nothing new about the show, except for Rocco DiSpirito hosting his first show for the channel. Restaurant Divided isn’t a bad show, just a little boring.
Restaurant Divided takes a family restaurant and splits it in half, literally. A line is drawn in the middle of the restaurant and each side is decorated to fit its respective theme. DiSpirito helps the family improve the two distinct concepts and create new menus. Then, the restaurant is opened for one night. Three things determine the winner: the judges opinions, the public’s opinion, and the profitability of each concept.
The first episode featured Mamma, Larry, and Laura, who run Mia Famiglia in Long Island City. At the beginning of their episode, Mia Famiglia is a standard Italian restaurant hidden in plain sight. A combination of being too traditional and of being too hard to find worked against the restaurant, causing it to struggle.
DiSpirito came in and split Mia Famiglia in half. Laura’s idea was a sports bar, but DiSpirito told her to change it to a mac and cheese restaurant. Everyone seemed to like Laura’s mac and cheese, but basing an entire restaurant around it is a pretty flimsy concept. Her brother Larry wanted to turn the restaurant into a communal steakhouse. While a steakhouse is a great idea, Larry thought serving his dream steak, which costs $23 dollars a pound wholesale, would be good for business. DiSpirito talked him out of it.
Throughout Mia Famiglia’s transformation, Mamma refused to pick sides. Even though she didn’t come out and say it, Mamma favored Larry’s concept. Mamma actually gave Larry permission to use the family’s ricotta cheesecake recipe. Laura got no such support and had to make everything on her own, which wasn’t a huge problem because she is a trained chef. However, Mamma should have either been honest and said whose concept she preferred or attempted to stay truly neutral. Instead, Laura got confirmation that her mother favors Larry.
On opening night, customers chose between Laura’s mac and cheese and Larry’s steak house. They preferred Larry’s concept, but found Laura’s food to be better. Larry’s staff kept sending out meat that was either undercooked or overcooked. No one received a steak that was cooked properly. Despite that, DiSpirito declared Larry the winner and told them to add two of Laura’s dishes to Larry’s Communal Steakhouse’s menu, which returned to its original name: Mia Famiglia.
Restaurant Divided probably won’t last. There are plenty of other shows with similar concepts that do the “make a restaurant profitable” gimmick much better. If that’s what you’re looking for, watch Restaurant Impossible or Kitchen Nightmares instead.