Restaurant Impossible - Paliani's Restaurant - CLOSED

Paliani's Restaurant Restaurant Impossible

In this Restaurant Impossible episode, Chef Robert Irvine visits Paliani's Restaurant in the city of Burton, Michigan.

Paliani’s is owned by Marina Bufalini, who bought the restaurant due to growing up with restaurants.

Her father owned several restaurants and other members of the family also own restaurants in the area.

When she graduated from college she wanted to run her dad’s restaurant but he declined as he felt it wasn’t right for a single girl.

Her father sadly passed away and five years ago her cousin decided to sell Paliani’s and she decided to buy It from him to keep it in the family.

The restaurant was originally opened by her uncle 47 years ago and has been very successful.

Running a restaurant turned out to be more difficult than she thought it would be and she is currently losing $5000 a month.

She is struggling to juggle being a single mother and running a successful restaurant allowing her small child to run loose around the restaurant when diners are trying to eat.

The kitchen is chaos with chefs quitting with no notice and there are constantly help wanted signs out the front.

Her family have also started to move away from the area and she has lost the support that she had from family.

She feels that the current staff have become her family and she wants to keep the restaurant open for everyone.

Robert arrives at the restaurant and isn’t impressed with the cheap table clothes or the fake, plastic grapes. The restaurant is also dirty and has a smell to it.

Robert meets with Marina who tells him the history of the restaurant and reveals that she bought the restaurant for $327,000 with the money she inherited from her father.

Things were going well until her cooks kept leaving the restaurant without giving her the reason why.

She tells Robert that she is currently $600,000 in debt and has three to four months before she will be forced to close the restaurant.

Robert wants to observe a dinner service and is surprised to see that Marinas young son Nico runs around the dining room whilst the customers are eating and trying to unwind and enjoy their meals.

Manager Lisa confirms to Robert that Nico is usually in the restaurant around five days a week and always wants to play and run about the dining room.

He is introduced to Robert and Marina tells Robert that she wants to spend as much time with her son as possible which is why he comes to the restaurant with her.

Robert understands how she feels and feels he is adorable but that his presence is creating an atmosphere that may be costing her.

Lisa reveals that she has worked at Paliani’s for 26 year and that business was better with the previous owner.

She feels that the biggest difference is the kitchen and the revolving doors of cooks.

Robert wants to sample the food and whilst he is waiting for the food he speaks with a customer about the food, who tells him that it is very inconsistent.

Upon tasting the food, Robert finds that the food is poor with a shrimp pasta being served in a pool of butter and cook Tony doesn't seem to know that the dish shouldn't be swimming in liquid.

He is astounded by his lack of knowledge on cooking as he has close to thirty years of experience in the kitchen.

Robert is frustrated and feels like they need to be fired but it isn’t his decision to make so he asks Marina to make a decision.

She decides to support them and give them another chance and Robert tells them how lucky they are to have her as a boss.

Robert meets with designer Lynn to discuss how they are going to update the d├ęcor and the staff help to empty the dining room.

Next, Robert wants to work with the cooks and makes a dish to see what they know about food.

Their comments show Robert that they have potential and can be taught the new menu and be worked with.

Robert meets with the designers to see how they are getting on with the redesign and is impressed but tells them to step it up to be finished in time for the relaunch.

Robert talks with Marina and tells her that he hasn’t seen an owner with such emotional attachment to the staff.

Marina confesses that she is afraid of losing everything and Robert promises to give her the courage and resources to save the business.

The next day, Robert meets with two of the cooks who had left to find out why and he recorded the interviews to show her later on.

The stories they tell Robert are very different to what he was told by Marina. They both tell of anger management issues and poor management.

Concerned by this he meets with the current staff who confirm that what they have said is the truth, adding another issue that Robert needs to tackle.

Robert confronts Marina with the video of the meeting with the two former cooks and she gets angry, defensive and is in denial about what they have said.

He calls in the staff to tell Marina how they feel and they confirm that she needs a change in attitude and to be a better manager. Confronted with the truth she apologizes and agrees to change.

Next Robert meets with the cooks to introduce and teach four new menu items including a Ham and Pepperoni Stromboli and a Ricotta Cheesecake.

The dishes are quick, simple and cheap to make. The staff sample the new dishes and really enjoy them.

The new makeover is revealed to Marina and she is overwhelmed by the new restaurant.

On relaunch night the customers find the new dining room warm and inviting and are enjoying the new food.



What Happened Next at Paliani's Restaurant?


Within a few months sales are around 40% higher and she is seeing both new and old customers through the doors.

Some of the changes were not a hit with some of the regular customers.

Marina slightly tweaked Robert's menu, reintroducing side salads and bread sticks.

Paliani's Restaurant closed in December 2012.

The owner Marina said that although there was a surge in business following the show but that it only lasted for two months and many of the regulars disliked the changes.

She also said that the new customers were one time visitors due to the show and did not become regulars.


Paliani's Restaurant was Restaurant Impossible season 4 episode 8 and aired on September 12 2012.

Click for more Restaurant Impossible Restaurants

Previous episode - Smitty's Italian Restaurant

Next episode - Wagon Wheel Family Restaurant

This post was last updated in December 2020.

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