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Restaurant Impossible Review: “Creepy in Clearwater”

It’s right there in the title. Creepy. This Restaurant: Impossible episode was one of the gross ones. One of the episodes that makes my skin crawl.

After watching it, I’m thinking I will be eating in and relying on my collection of copycat and slow cooker recipes to avoid going out to an actual restaurant for a while. At least until the memory of this horror fades.

Impossible Photo

Day 1:
Robert finds himself in Clearwater, Florida with Gus and Evi Gialelis at their failing restaurant, Smitty’s. Smitty’s specializes in American cuisine sprinkled with a few Greek dishes here and there. Like so many restaurant owners that we see on RI, the Gialelis family is up to their eyeballs in debt and on the brink of losing everything.

Something that strikes me as unique about this family, though, is the dynamic between Gus and Evi. Even with all of the difficulties at Smitty’s, it is clear that they love and respect each other.

All too often, we see families being ripped apart and at each other’s throats because of their failing businesses. The Gialelis family is very different. Are they upset? Very, but are they taking it out on each other? No. Robert definitely picks up on this loving and respectful relationship and it makes him want to help the family even more.

The restaurant itself is beyond old, dirty and smelly. Gunk and crust cover the floor and pretty much every nook and cranny Robert comes across. The old banquet tables and chairs are ripped and patched with duct tape. It’s no shock that this fails to impresses the test customers. Not to mention the inedible food plus the side of hair on the plates.

One customer complains that the menu is like a novel and has too many options. Why do restaurants always feel like they have to offer every single dish a person can think of? Why not offer one great chicken dish, one awesome steak dish, a superb fish or seafood recipe and a few other main courses to round out the menu? I’m positive this will be on Robert’s to-do list.

After inspecting the kitchen, Robert shuts the whole taste testing service down because he finds (you guessed it!): cockroaches! So, so gross. And not just a few cockroaches, but tons. Live and dead. Everywhere. Clogging drains, crawling in the fridge – anywhere you can think of. *shiver*. Because of all of the creepy crawlies, Robert needs to bring in exterminators to fog the place. We’re talking full blown, bug bombing.

While the fogging is going to (hopefully) annihilate the bugs, it causes a few problems for the design team: Tanya and Tom. First, it takes money away from their design budget, but also it is going to take all night long, thus preventing the designers from actually being able to be in the building getting their work done. But, bug problems come first, so they need to roll with it. I honestly don’t think Robert has ever been this concerned that they won’t finish. He is, however, remaining very calm with his team. Which is also rare.

Day 2:
After a survey of the newly bug bombed kitchen, the team is encouraged because it appears that the bombing worked. Yay! Now, onto the next giant problem: The stove is broken. So busted and broken, that it is a fire hazard and needs to be replaced. Luckily, Robert has some connections and is able to get Gus a good deal on a replacement.

Once the new stove is delivered and plumbed back up, Robert can get to the fun part, the food! His first order of business is to design a much smaller menu. 

Robert starts the menu with a twist on Spanakopita. But instead of the traditional triangle shape, he’s turning it into a spring roll. The filling looks divine with fresh onion, spinach, feta cheese, dill and a bit of seasoning. These little rolls get fried up and served with a fresh tzatziki sauce. Yum!

The next new dish is Robert’s spin on a Reuben. Every menu needs a good sandwich. Especially one with melted cheese. Robert spreads some Thousand Island dressing on some rye bread, tops it with turkey (I told you it was a spin), cabbage and cheese. After Robert grills it and lets it rest, Gus and his father-in-law, Nic, give their thumbs up to the new sandwich.

Against all odds, Smitty’s actually gets finished. The reveal brings tears to Gus and Evi’s eyes. The new Smitty’s looks nothing like the dingy, disgusting mess that it was just two days ago. Tanya and Tom went with a classic Greek blue and white theme, incorporating Greek key designs into the window treatments and a new ‘Smitty’s’ sign. Not super original, but it’s what Evi wanted.

The new menu and look go over very well with customers and we get a peek at a few other new menu items: fried fish, chicken wings, and a juicy lamb burger. The grilled lamb burger topped with melted cheese look mouth wateringly good. Much better than what Smitty’s was serving up pre-makeover.

I truly hope that Smitty’s can keep up with their new image. Robert left them with a clean, updated kitchen, re-decorated dining room, and an updated and well designed menu but I am nervous that they owners and staff will fall into their previous dirty ways. Smitty’s could benefit from hiring a general manager. Someone who would be in charge of wrangling the staff and ensuring that Smitty’s keeps up with the cleanliness that Robert left them with.

While Robert and his team did an amazing job with the sheer mountain of a challenge that they were presented with, it’s definitely hard to get the image of those scurrying cockroaches out of my head. I still think I’ll make myself scarce from restaurants for a while.

Thanks for reading and remember to visit Food Fanatic for all your Food Network recipes!