“It’s not coming to New York without going to Rocco’s” says the annoying diner at the beginning of every episode of The Restaurant. I guess that’s true if your trip to New York is a study in poor service, mediocre food, and dining with other tourists from Nebraska and Staten Island. Either way, in its somber-voiced recaps, The Restaurant always shows a little love to the nasal endorser at table 3, which is good because now that this show has wrapped, Rocco’s 22nd is going to need a lot of TLC from the star-struck tourists that keep it afloat. As for the actual television show, well, it’s not doing so well either. Saturday night’s season finale might just as well have been the series finale. The only thing that could possibly keep it alive at this point is NBC wanting to stay on Mark Burnett’s good side, lest he pull the plug on that other little show, The Apprentice.It’s too bad that The Restaurant’s season has come to such an unceremonious end. I was just starting to care about the characters. Of course there are the three stars: Rocco, Jeffrey Chodorow, and Mama. But it’s the little guys that are keeping the show semi-interesting. There’s Carrie, the yenta waitress who spreads gossip like a bad strain of strep throat; Carol, Chodorow’s Hadassah pitbull whose bowler hat hardly contains her frizzy hair; Sarah, Chodorow’s sweet taskmaster with the British accent; Uzay, Carrie’s co-conspirator and “celebrity waiter”; and finally, Gavin, the new resident asshole who just bought a first class ticket on a power trip from hell.
When we last saw Rocco a week ago, he was babbling about how he was going to take control of his restaurant by cancelling all his plans and devoting all his energy to the kitchen – for three days. To prove this point, we found him sleeping with his beautiful girlfriend in a booth in the dining room. Yes, it isn’t coming to New York without possibly sitting in a dried puddle of Rocco’s man juice.
As snow descended on the little bistro that couldn’t, Rocco attended to personelle matters by firing emotional line chef Gabe. With tears in his eyes and dreams of culinary fame dashed on live television, Gabe did the oh-so-awkward move of going to pat Rocco on the shoulder and then holding back when he remembered that he had just been fired. I could sense a collective cringe from the twelve people across the nation who were actually watching.
Meanwhile, Jeffrey, fresh from an outing to the Men’s Warehouse casual sweater department, hopped on a plane to Miami to sample the food of potential Rocco replacement, Marc Randazzo. While Chodorow and crew launched an assault of uninspired jokes (“You know how in boxing there’s a KO and a TKO? Well, you just earned an SKO – standing kitchen ovation.”), his wife had a foodgasm with some cheesecake that resulted in her confessing that she’s both a lady on the street and a freak in the bed. Actually, she just said that she was a dessert freak.
Things weren’t quite as sunny in NYC as Rocco made his latest cameo appearance in the kitchen. He put some wood into the gas stove, which is kind of, I don’t know, illegal. Suddenly, Rocco’s browbeaten assistant rushed into the kitchen to alert him that Yvonne, his fiance, had fallen off a scooter in the snow and was in ambulatory care at the hospital. Happy to have an excuse to not cook, Rocco bolted from The Restaurant, leaving newbee Gavin at the reigns.
Like a butterfly emerging from the coccoon, Gavin metamorphisized into a beautiful asshole, spreading joy throughout Roccoland. First he reamed out a line chef, and then when Uzay came down to the kitchen with some tourists, Gavin announced that he’s the fuckin chef and Uzay’s just a celebrity waiter. Recognize!
Well, no one assumes a position of power without tangling with Carol first. As Gavin cooked with the woodfire that Rocco had started, Sarah entered the restaurant with bitter Carol on her heals. Clearly Carol hadn’t terrorized her Upper West Side neighbors enough that day because she still had some frenetic energy to let loose. The duo stopped the wood burning as Carol snapped “End of story” and as she- “End of Story!” Oops, she wasn’t done. Carol likes to say things twice for effect. Gavin sort of smirked them off and went back down to the kitchen where he unleashed a torrent of dickish questions on a bored security guard who was sent in to guard the wood. Everyone watching must have secretly been hoping for a showdown between Rocco’s silverware guard and Jeffrey’s wood guard.
At the hospital, Rocco attended to ailing Yvonne who was revealed to have incurred a large scrape on her knee and not much else. High maintenance, anyone? What was she doing on a scooter anyway in the snow? Maybe she was having problems walking after that uncomfortable night sleeping in the booth. Afterwards, Rocco went to seek the solace of an older, wiser chef who happily told him he looks homeless. Rocco laughed it off, but I don’t think the guy was joking.
The next day, Gavin told Rocco that his job sucks and he doesn’t want to replace Tony. Rocco laid on his usual passive aggressive charm “I’ve enjoyed all your work here… until right now”, and Gavin responded with a sweet “I don’t blame you. I blame who you chose to go into business with.” Isn’t that still blaming him? This was not a meeting of great minds, however. Speaking of idiots on parade, the bickering at the bar continued to swell as Carol poked her head into the fray with some cleaning tips. I really enjoy watching the bartenders act as if they have any sort of bar scene. If anyone ever goes to Rocco’s to hang out at the bar, they should be thrown in the oven with the illegal wood.
Jeffrey announced to the staff that the restaurant had finally made a profit, but Rocco seemed nonplussed. Channeling the logic of a 17 year old girl, Jeffrey said didn’t like the way Rocco reacted and that was the problem with the restaurant. The next day, while the staff ice skated in Central Park, Jeffrey basically offered Rocco a few hundred thousand dollars to go away. And if Rocco wouldn’t go away, he’d have to buy out Jeffrey’s share of the restaurant.
So after six episodes of complaining and bickering and fighting, it came down to this. Aaaaand scene. The show ended. Wait, a cliffhanger? We don’t even know if this show is coming back. That’s not cool. Some title cards informed us that Jeffrey and Rocco are currently suing each other and they both want to control the restaurant and yada yada yada. Well, all’s well that ends ambiguously. Here’s to hoping The Casino will pick up Mark Burnett’s dropped reality baton…