Mama Maria's - Kitchen Nightmares Update - Open or Closed?

Mama Maria's Kitchen Nightmares

In this episode of Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsay visits Mama Maria’s in Brooklyn, New York.

Mama Maria’s is a sister business to Sal’s Pizzeria and the two restaurants are attached.

Sal’s was owned by Sal and Maria, who purchased the restaurant in the 1970’s.

It was run successfully until their son John Esposito took over in 1990.

John joined the family business when he was 14 and by the time he took over they had expanded, buying the restaurant next door.

After his mother Maria died, the second space was renamed Mama Maria’s in her honour.

Over the years, sales have dropped off in both restaurants.

John isn’t managing the business well and is overwhelmed by running both of the businesses.

He is also stubborn and allows his kids to run free in the place.

John does not understand the changing demographic of the community and has not moved with the times.

Gordon arrives at Mama Maria’s and isn’t impressed with the tatty exterior as the awning is ripped across the lettering of the restaurant name.

He enters the restaurant and meets Fabio the general manager.

Fabio tells him that the sign was ripped by John and he was currently next door in the pizzeria.

Gordon goes next door and meets John thinking he was filling in due to them being short staffed but is told that John makes all of the pizza’s in Sal’s.

John tells Gordon the history of the place and that they are struggling because they are not busy enough due to increased competition.

Gordon sits in Mama Maria’s to order from the lunch menu and is served by Laurie and Fabio.

Gordon reads on the menu that all the pasta is made daily on the premises.

He orders tortellini di patate, spaghetti meatballs and a margherita pizza.

Server Fran brings the desserts to the table, one of the cakes is mouldy but this is explained to be okay as they are just for display.

Fabio tries to defend the products; that it is just for display and they are not served to customers.

Gordon says it doesn’t make sense displaying old desserts and is offended when Fabio says that’s why he is there.

The tortellini arrives and Gordon think it tastes bland.

He can tell it was frozen, which Laurie confirms after asking the kitchen staff.

Gordon is surprised to find out they make the pasta fresh but freeze it immediately to use another day.

Gordon smells something off in the dining area and on inspection sees an over watered plant with stagnant water.

He takes the plant off the shelf and the water spills everywhere including on innocent diners.

He promises to pay their dry-cleaning bill for being covered in the foul water from the plant.

The spaghetti meatballs arrive next and Gordon can tell that the meatballs were frozen without even sampling the food.

The meatballs are rubbery and dry. The Pizza arrives last and it is too greasy.

Gordon doesn’t think that John is tasting the food before it is sent out to diners.

John is upset with the feedback and throws pizza boxes around angrily.

Gordon meets the kitchen staff Joe, Oscar and Valentino to give feedback and John explains the frozen food is the standard practice.

Gordon argues that may have been the case in the 80s but in the 2000s standards have risen and things have changed.

John tells Gordon that it takes too long to make the meatballs fresh but the Chef agrees that the food is poor and he has no control over changing the menu.

Gordon advises they should close the restaurant if they don’t want to change but John doesn’t agree with him on their processes not working.

Gordon comes back in the evening to observe a dinner service.

He sees John making pizza in the corner, ignoring all other meals and the other activities in the kitchen.

The rest of the kitchen staff cook the other meals using his recipes and the customers are not happy with the food.

A vegetarian customer finds a meat bone in her tomato sauce.

It is revealed the plain tomato sauce is made with pork bones and sausage bits.

A customer is found being sick in the bathroom after he had eaten a lobster tail that made him ill almost instantly.

Gordon investigates the lobster dish and notices that the lobster is old and it smells like ammonia.

John is forced to call an ambulance as the customer is not getting better.

The presence of the ambulance makes other diners uncomfortable and the restaurant is shut down.

All food taken back to the kitchen without any payments being taken from customers.

Gordon takes John aside to talk about what has happened during the service.

He lets John know that the night’s disaster is because of his bad practices.

He has a defeated attitude and is not taking ownership of the place but instead is acting like a member of staff.

John is concerned about providing for his family and gets emotional when talking about the restaurant failing.

Gordon reminds him he needs to change and succeed for the sake of his children.

The next day, Gordon inspects the freezers and finds a lot of frozen food.

He is disgusted to find buckets of frozen pasta, meat and sauces covered in mould and with freezer burn.

Nothing is dated or labelled and it is impossible to guess what some of the items are.

Gordon takes the frozen food to the front of the restaurant to show the scale of it and reveals that it is a year’s worth of frozen food.

Gordon informs them that the sick customer is feeling better and was discharged from the hospital.

John says it is his fault as he has been buying the same amount of product that he did when they were more successful.

Gordon tells John that he needs to let go of the past after he discovers that the Specials have not been changed since his parents passed away.

John says the restaurant is his life and it is hard to let go but he doesn’t want for the restaurant to continue to fail.

Gordon reminds him he needs to set things in place and be the owner.

The next day, Gordon reveals the first change which is that he has replaced the awning with a bold modern new sign.

Inside the restaurant, it is modern and vibrant with an art display of the Brooklyn bridge.

There are also pictures of his parents around New York on the walls and custom tablecloths on the tables.

The menu has been overhauled with a new menu with smaller dishes using fresh ingredients.

On relaunch night, Gordon has invited influential food critics, journalists and bloggers to the relaunch.

John is nervous meeting the influencers that could make or break his business.

The kitchen gets off to a good start but John is not managing his staff and is found at the bar.

Gordon gives him a pep talk and he steps up to the task, mingles with customers and takes control of his staff.

The night ends well and all the diners loved the ambience and the food.

What Happened Next at Mama Maria's?

A few months later, business was reported to be up 10% in the restaurant.

Some old customers favourites have been returned the the menu as requested by customers but John has kept Gordon's revised menu in place, with a few minor tweaks to the dishes.

Mama Maria's and Sal's Pizzeria closed in February 2023.

They closed as owner John deicded to retire.

Yelp reviews were mostly positive after Gordon's visit. Recent reviews in 2019 appear to suggest that the seafood is frozen.

Trip Advisor reviews were also mostly positive, negative reviews relate to non-delivery of take out orders.

Mama Maria's was aired on November 09 2012, the episode was filmed in June 2012 and is Kitchen Nightmares season 6 episode 3.

This post was last updated in March 2023.


  1. I went to Mama Maria's one afternoon for lunch. I walked into the restaurant and walked around for at least 5 minutes. I picked up a menu. I called out "hello" several times and no one ever came out from the back.

    Maybe the place is cleaner. Maybe the menu is simpler. Maybe they are making money.

    But, I will never walk into this restaurant again.

  2. This is probably the only episode that the owner and most of the restaurant staffs are likable. And I'm glad they're not only still open, but thriving.

    1. I'm guessing because the guy was awkward, they couldn't really try to force him to put on a performance as they likely do with most other episodes. I don't know that I like him that much, but I can sympathize for him to some degree at least. It's one of my favorite episodes so far.

  3. Hands down the best episode I've seen. I bawled watching it... I love how Ramsey handled the whole situation with keeping his folks incorporated in the new design. I am genuinely happy that they are doing well. If I ever make it to Brooklyn I will definitely be stopping there! And on a side note I hope he finally does get to spend more time with his family :)

    1. I really felt like Gordon cared a lot about John and his restaurant. For some reason he seemed more determined than usual to help him thrive.

  4. I'm genuinely surprised that this place is still open. The guy was awkward, kind of dopey and didn't seem to have the slightest clue of how to run a business. Yet here they are. Good for them.

  5. Probably one of the better episodes that I have watched. I’m glad things worked out for the owner after Gordon left.


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