Kitchen Nightmares - Cafe Tavolini - CLOSED

Cafe Tavolini Kitchen Nightmares

In this Kitchen Nightmares episode, Chef Gordon Ramsay visits Cafe Tavolini in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Cafe Tavolini was bought by husband and wife Keith and Lisa Restivo.

Bridgeport is an industrial city on the Connecticut coast, only an hour North of Manhattan.

Keith and Lisa Restivo bought the restaurant on a whim having no experience in the restaurant industry.

Lisa is a hairdresser by trade and Keith works in liquor sales.

The restaurant is family run with Lisa's son Van and their daughter Joli also working in the restaurant.

Van says the restaurant was filled up when they opened it and everyone was happy.

Nowadays the restaurant is deserted and the customers are staying away.

As the business began to decline, the relationships in the family began to decline along with it.

Joli states that her parents do not care as they hate being in the restaurant together.

Van is agitated that Keith always claim he is busy when he isn’t.

Van says Keith wakes up around 2pm and comes to the restaurant to hang out on the patio and lays down for the rest of the day.

The staff are frustrated by the lack of management and that the couple watch the restaurant via CCTV from home, nitpicking everything they do.

They are in $350,000 of debt and their marriage is suffering.

As Gordon arrives, Van gets in the car and explains that Keith is only at the restaurant because he knows that Gordon is coming.

He also tells him that he blames Lisa for everything and for the restaurant not being successful.

Gordon enters the restaurant and is greeted by Keith who introduces Lisa to him.

He meets the couple and Keith claims to be in the restaurant almost every day.

Lisa says she shows up mostly at nights to actively manage the restaurant.

The owners introduce their son Van to Gordon.

Van says he works as a waiter in the restaurant 4-5 times each week.

He then reveals that Keith and Lisa mostly do not show up to the restaurant at all and watch via CCTV.

Gordon orders Tavolini's Grandmother's meatball salad, stuffed clams and the pan roasted salmon with risotto.

Gordon speaks with bartender Ricky, who tells him the major problem is the lack of management as the owners aren’t always around.

He tells Ricky to send Keith to his table but he has already left the restaurant to return home.

Lisa covers for Keith with an excuse that he has gone to collect a few things for the restaurant.

The salad is described by Gordon as an insult to grandmothers as it is dirty, salty, and poor tasting.

He can’t find any clams in his stuffed clam dish as it is all filling.

The salmon dish is always poor, the salmon is undercooked and cold and the risotto was mushy and was made yesterday.

On getting back to the restaurant, Keith and Van argue about being transparent as Gordon is there to help.

Lisa tries to convince Keith that he should see Gordon or she would leave but he yells at her to shut up.

Being caught in the crossfire, Lisa cries but Gordon tries to intervene.

Gordon tells them that the food he was served was a disgrace and hideous.

With a restaurant and a marriage clearly on the line, Gordon dives in and gathers information about the financial state of the restaurant.

Lisa tells him that there was a night where all they had earned for the day was $40.

She also states that they are going to be homeless after their house was foreclosed on.

They aren’t even taking any salary which is why Keith is so stressed out.

She claims she had felt some urges to hand Keith divorce papers and will go through with it if the business fails.

Gordon decides to observe the restaurant’s dinner service and is shocked by how small the kitchen is.

The news of Gordon’s appearance in Connecticut has led to a full restaurant.

The dishes are leaving the kitchen too quickly and are disappointing the customers.

Gordon notices that dishes are made with poor ingredients, pre-cooked and are reheated as needed.

Despite the fast start, the disorganized kitchen starts delivering food at a snail’s pace, keeping customers waiting for long.

Gordon was disappointed by how dysfunctional the kitchen was.

The kitchen soon falls apart and Gordon looks to find the owners who are sat in their car eating food from the restaurant.

While the owners dined in the driveway, head chef Michael does his best to rally the staff and complete the dinner service.

Gordon confronts the owners telling them that they are abusing the restaurant.

He tells them they are lacking any drive for the restaurant and Jolie accuses them of not caring about the restaurant.

The next morning Gordon boards up the restaurant with closed signs as the restaurant will soon close if things don’t change.

Lisa wrote a wake-up call letter of apology saying that they would make the changes needed to save the restaurant.

Gordon appears to have finally got through to the owners on the consequences if they don't turn it around at the restaurant.

They apologized to the staff for their behavior towards them and the restaurant.

For the night’s dinner service, Gordon introduces a new family style menu to help them stand out and gets both owners working in the restaurant.

Lisa will be a server and Keith will create and promote a cocktail to the customers.

Lisa and Keith settle into their roles well and the diners love the new menu.

However the customers who ordered from the old menu are left waiting and are disappointed with the food they receive.

The kitchen gets backed up and Gordon tells Lisa they have too many menu items.

Keith walks out again and chef Michael once again has to step up to rescue the service.

After the night’s service Gordon compliments the kitchen for pushing out the family menu dishes fast.

He tells Keith that he needs to step up and not feel embarrassed or nervous in his business.

The restaurant is given a makeover and the kitchen is extended, giving the chefs extra room.

He also extends the family style menu and adds new a la carte options to the menu.

Relaunch night starts off well, Michael is sending out the appetizers quickly and the customers are impressed.

However, the tickets get mixed up in the kitchen and it all falls apart and the customers are left waiting for food.

Gordon tells Keith to sort it out and he goes behind the line, sorting out the fiasco and the kitchen recovers.

The kitchen turns it around and begins sending out dishes to happy customers leading to a successful relaunch.



What Happened Next at Cafe Tavolini?

In the weeks after filming, Keith and Lisa did not commit to managing the restaurant and they separated.

Yelp reviews were oddly non-existent for the restaurant.

Cafe Tavolini closed in December 2010.

They closed just a few weeks after filming, their answerphone said they were closing for "medical reasons ".

A For Sale sign appeared in the windows shortly after, although this was said to not effect the restaurant as it was rented.

Many customers were disappointed as they had purchased gift certificates and a complaint was made to the Attorney General.

Weeks before the closure, Keith told the press he was struggling to pay rent, vendors.

It was discovered that he had debts including tax owed to the city.

Keith was hoping to reopen the restaurant in March 2011 but this never happened.

Some of the staff including Chef Michael Sirico are now working in B Line Bar & Grill in Black Rock.

Cafe Tavolini aired on March 25 2011, the episode was filmed in December 2010 and is Kitchen Nightmares season 4 episode 7.


Read About More Kitchen Nightmares

Previous episode - Down City

Next episode - Kingston Cafe


This post was last updated in April 2021.

15 comments:

  1. If you watch the episode, "Van" is referred to once as "VJ". "Van" is a name he adopted for the show, and he was one reason why the restaurant got so bad to begin with. Michael was an excellent waiter, as were the old staff before the owners decided to have the kids be the staff. The B Line Bar & Grill closed after two weeks, and there's now a seafood raw bar where Tavolini used to be.

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    1. I was a regular patron of that place, and I stopped going after they let the good staff go, and let "Van" (who always went by "VJ" up until that show aired; you can even hear his sister call him that) become the head server. He spent most of the time texting and fixing his hair.

      It's too bad, because it was a wonderful restaurant at one time.

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    2. Sorry, I meant Keith. The show exposed who you really are and now throwing shade at the boy. You are not just a lazy POS, but a disgusting human being as well.

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    3. Did you ever think that his name might actually be Van? You know maybe the "V" in "VJ" might stand for "Van"?

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  2. God where the owners stupid indeed. Felt so sorry for the kids, especially Van. He seemed like a bright kid, dedicated and loyal. If the kids were not related to the mom, I am sure both would have left ages ago. So sad. Hope the kids are alright, both have huge potential, just because they work hard and are honest.

    The owners were quite the contrary. Keith is a no good s.o.b. and the type that would molest his wife and step children. Really a nasty character this guy. The mom is totally oblivious. Unbelievable that when you invest so much money in a restaurant that you could not care less how it is being operated. They got what they deserved, sadly the kids deserved a lot better.

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    1. I know it's been years but I just saw the episode. The Mom wasnt clueless she was lazy!

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  3. I think Chef Ramsey already knew that this was a lost cause, but the show has to go on. These people had no business being in the restaurant business in the first place.

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    1. You hit the nail on the head,they were clueless. Im thinking another blogger was right too about the old staff before the kids,as why it did so great at the start, then they brought the kids in. Maybe?

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  4. Im watching these back to back in UK...although old programmes I cant help but think some of the owners just want to get the make over to better sell business on how does programme maker fund this ?.

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    1. After watching these, I feel pretty sure the producers pick the most dysfunctional restaurants they can get. It isn't about watching a restaurant "turn-around" and be successful. It's all about watching a train wreck. The owners aren't as dumb as we think. They get the make-over and increase their selling price. (Manufactures give their products for the advertising and exposure).

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  5. That's the most stupid thing I have ever heard. It's trying to turn around the impossible, that's the purpose and that is Gordon's target for achievement. He's not only a celebrity chef he has intelligence that can be shared to learn. Also it will shake up the owners of the truth of what situation they are in.

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  6. Just watched the episode, if they had done everything Gordon Ramsey taught them, they probably would have been successful. I actually googled the restaurant to visit, not too far from me, the food sounded delicious. Feel bad for all the employees who tried their best. Too bad the 2 owners didn't care enough. Hopefully other restaurant owners have learned from Mr. Ramsey's great advice by watching the show.

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  7. This was a painful episode to watch. It was pretty obvious the owners were clueless. I think they got into the restaurant business because they thought it was going to be fast, easy money for zero effort. I could tell from the beginning that Gordon was going to waste his time. The owners were lazy, sitting in the car. They didn't care period. In my experience, people don't change. Sad for the employees who relied on the business for an income and hopefully they, along with the son and daughter, moved on to better things.

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  8. Just saw the episode.
    It would have been better to let the kids run the restaurant and
    the parents stayed out of it.
    The parents did not appear to be workers, no zest, the attitude looked like,
    we dont want to work for the money, just want for it to fall in.
    Too bad, to have such an opportunity and lose it over slothiness.

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  9. Another thing I notice is that once they have the relaunch with a brand new menu, they overbook the opening which causes chaos in the kitchen. Then, Ramsey gets things going and success. Any restaurant with tht much debt cannot succeed and failure is usually a guarantee. At least they get their place up to date for an early sale.

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