Campania - Kitchen Nightmares Update - Open or Closed?

Kitchen Nightmares Campania

In this Kitchen Nightmares episode, Gordon Ramsay visits Campania in Fair Lawn New Jersey.

Campania restaurant was bought by Joseph Cerniglia only 18 months ago but it is already close to closing its doors.

It was a successful restaurant till Joe took Campania over.

He is extremely laid back and this reflects in the staff behaviour, they take advantage of the childish atmosphere and play practical jokes on each other.

The kitchen is in disrepair with broken ovens they use as storage and the walk-in freezer has broken handles.

Joe gets flustered easily which also stresses his staff out.

The restaurant is in over $250,000 of debt with $80,000 owed to suppliers and vendors at the time of filming.

Gordon arrives and isn't impressed that the restaurant is on a strip mall and is greeted by Joe, who points a lot.

Gordon orders the tortellini soup, ravioli and pistachio and cranberry crusted chicken.

The kitchen commences making his orders and engage in goofy behaviour that Gordon can hear from the dining room.

First to arrive is the soup, which he finds to be bland and tasteless.

Gordon asks if the meatballs were made in the kitchen or bought-in and the waitress tries to talk around the answer before admitting they are bought from a supplier.

The ravioli is disappointing and has lots of garlic and is covered in the sauce.

The final dish is also disappointing as the chicken is dry and sweet.

Gordon gives the staff feedback in the kitchen and lets them know their food doesn’t hit the mark of good Italian dishes.

Gordon inspects the kitchen and finds that it is clean. He inspects the fridges and is surprised to find that the fridges are stocked full of food.

The fridges are stocked for a fully booked restaurant but with customer numbers as low as they are, Gordon can see that they are wasting money on produce.

Gordon arrives to observe a dinner service and realises that the staff are acting like the restaurant is a high school because the restaurant is overstaffed.

Gordon calls them together and makes Joe cut 3 staff to save on costs for the evening.

Dinner service starts and they are quickly overwhelmed with orders.

The kitchen struggles with the orders and customers are left in the dining room waiting for food with one customer resorting to ordering a pizza!

When the food gets out to diners it is not great and Gordon stops some poor quality dishes leaving the kitchen.

He quickly notices most of the customers get takeaway bags due to the massive portion sizes they are served.

Gordon tells Joe this is another way that he is losing money fast by giving away food that will be eaten the next day.

Sitting with Joe, Gordon lets him know about the waste, but he says it’s what they are known for and what customers want.

Joe gets upset and asks Gordon to stop embarrassing him in front of his customers.

The next day, Gordon meets with Joe Cerniglia's wife Melissa and she tells him that if the restaurant fails that they will lose their house.

Both she and Joe's mum worry about the stress this is putting onto Joe.

Melissa, his wife, tells Gordon they have a lot on the line if the restaurant fails and Joe has passion for what he does but just needs perspective.

Gordon then gives the kitchen staff some pointers on food prep and presentation.

Gordon introduces a new signature dish of meatballs and they head out into town to promote "New Jersey's Best Meatballs" with samples and flyers.

They have a branded truck and t-shirts with this new tagline and move around New Jersey to market their business.

Gordon sits with Joe afterwards to discuss his business and Joe says they have lost $120,000 in 18 months.

Joe confides that he is in $200,000 of debt and Gordon tells him that he needs to start taking the business seriously.

Overnight the restaurant is given a makeover with a modernised look, a bigger banner outside and an improved seating area.

In the kitchen, there is a new stove and smaller plates to reduce the portion sizes.

Gordon introduces a new menu with the signature meatballs in both the starters and entrees.

Gordon gets the staff motivated with a Bingo competition. They must sell every dish on the menu to win 100 dollars.

The relaunch starts and the customers love the new dishes except an irate lady who complains and sends her food back.

She says she finds her steak "tough" and complains, Gordon sees that there is nothing wrong with the food and tells her to stop causing trouble, he tells other customers to ignore the old bat.

Everything else is going well till Joe starts feeling stressed in the kitchen due to the complaint and starts making mistakes.

He takes a break and strolls through the dining area speaking with customers, leaving Gene to work on his own.

Orders get backed up again since they are a man down.

Another unhappy customer wants to see the manager and Joe tries to calm the woman, but it doesn’t work, he quickly runs back to the kitchen.

The woman goes to the front of the restaurant and says that her pasta tasted like Ragu in front of Joe’s mother.

A satisfied customer comes to the defence of the food outside the restaurant confronting the lady and there is a fight in the parking lot.

A police car passing by extinguishes the argument and the customers are moved on.

Gordon takes Joe aside to keep him focused on his role as a leader in the kitchen and advices him to spend limited time in the dining room.

The relaunch night ends well with the team working well and communicating with a waitress winning the server bingo.

Gordon praises the team on how well they did serving 203 customers and making $7,500, three times what they made the previous night.

What Happened Next at Campania?

Business at the restaurant vastly improved after the restaurant was visited by Gordon.

Joe won Chef Central's Bergen County Ultimate Chef Competition in 2008 and came Runner Up in 2009.

Yelp reviews after filming were mostly positive with some menu items leading to criticism and some complaining of a long wait for a table or for food to arrive.

In September 2010 Joe sold the restaurant to Campania Holding Corp.

Eight days later Joe Cerniglia committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson river.

It later emerged that he was in a relationship with Jessica, a pastry chef who worked at the restaurant and not the waitress of the same name featured in the episode.

Campania closed in January 2011.

Sage Restaurant, an American/Italian restaurant opened in it's place on 29th March 2012 with mostly positive Yelp reviews.

Campania aired on November 28 2007, the episode was filmed in March 2007 and is Kitchen Nightmares season 1 episode 9.

This post was last updated in March 2023.


  1. It seemed obvious during the show that he was sleeping with at least one waitress... didn't it?!?

    1. yes it did. there's at one point when he touches her shoulders on the camera in the episode found on netflix.

  2. Im now getting to see these old episodes and sad to hear this is what happened.

  3. Yes, there was so much play in that restaurant that I was pretty sure there was some hanky-panky going on. Still, Joe seemed the last person one would think would commit suicide :(

  4. I had been watching the older episodes of Kitchen Nightmares and while learning of the affair didn't blow my mind, it really struck me when I heard he died. I know that there are likely some contrivances, etc. but I like to think some people are truly helped by Gordon and the show. It is truly terrible that this happened, Joe seemed to be a talented chef and well-meaning guy. It is so unfortunate that things went so far downhill for him emotionally.

  5. Just watched the episode and came here to read what happened next. As far as cheating, unsurprised ... I thought of that possibility while watching the episode. The suicide thing was a big surprise.


  6. I am going through and catching up on the early seasons and couldn't figure out why BBC America never shows this episode...well, now I know. Even if he was a lousy businessman and unfaithful to his family, Joe is still one of the more pleasant owners in the history of the show. RIP

  7. Just watched here in Brazil. I was very saddened by this news.
    André MM.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. No they should air this episode it's insulting to me that they don't. Not airing it says to me that anyone who committed suicide should be forgotten. Dismissed. Not worthy to be remembered. Have a heart to heart message at the end don't write him off.

  9. I came here to talk about the old woman/family who were fishing for a free meal and a chance to be on tv and Gordon called her an old bag but it was clear as day he was sleepin with Jessica hell the show opened with her giggling and smiling and playing with him in the kitchen. Hope his wife had a great insurance policy and her and their kid are taken care of is all I have to say about the rest of it.

  10. Its sad that he took his own life, I dont care about the affairs he maby had, I do hope that the kids and their mom are okay and maby have some support from Ramsey and the others.

  11. Interesting ending to the story.

  12. Some of the comments on here are so insensitivity written. Imagine Joe's wife is reading these and everyone's chipping in their criticism about how much of an awful person Joe supposedly was. Rather than pass judgement why not just be kind? No one dare make any passing remarks or responses to what I am about to write.

    If Joe's wife is watching then I'll say this. It's beyond clear that Joe loved you so very much. He made a mistake but so does everyone, his error of judgement in no way reflects the extent of his love for you and your children. It is clear that he was under severe distress and suffered from mental heath issues but he was nonetheless one of the nicest, kindest chefs I've ever seen and known; he may no longer be here but his love for you and the children will forever endure x

    1. Amen, beautifully said. May he RIP and heartfelt love and prayers to the family always.

  13. I dined at Campania several times under the owner who Joe bought the restaurant from. That man was a damn fine cook and anything he made was delicious. I was told that once the sale was finalized, the previous owner was convinced Joe wasn't going to last long.

    Needless to say, he was right.

  14. It is truly saddening to hear what happened with Joe. There was a follow up episode where Gordon revisits them and they were doing really well. May he Rest In Peace. I wish his family well and hope they are doing okay.


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