Mama Della’s N.Y. City Pizzeria is the subject of next week’s Restaurant: Impossible. The episode, “Pizza: Impossible,” airs Wednesday, March 26, at 9 p.m. on Food Network.
Chef/host Robert Irvine and his crew came to Baton Rouge in January to help make over the local restaurant, which opened more than two years ago on Jefferson Highway. Owner Barry Kalt is a New York transplant who named the restaurant after the nickname of his mother, Adele.
Though Kalt prides himself on fresh ingredients, Irvine says Mama Della’s had numerous challenges to overcome.
One challenge was Kalt’s temper, which Irvine calls “the wrath of Barry.”
“Unfortunately, Barry had a temper,” Irvine says. “If you ordered something that he thought wouldn’t go on the pizza, then watch out. It was definitely interesting watching him interact with the customers.”
Irvine himself got a taste of Kalt’s temper and wouldn’t put up with it.
“The way he spoke to me when I first got there … I said to him, ‘Listen, I’m not one of your lackeys, I’m here to help,'” Irvine says. “At the end of day one, there were fireworks between me and Barry.”
Other challenges included food quality and lack of efficiency in the kitchen. Irvine also tried to include Kalt’s son, Andrew, who works in the food industry.
“It was like oil and water,” Irvine says. “Andrew would change up the menu and pizza ingredients and put whatever he wanted on there, and Barry would not have any of it.”
Yet through all the difficulties, Kalt and Irvine were able to see eye-to-eye by the end of the crew’s stay. Irvine knows Kalt will always be a stubborn owner, but there is hope.
“Can [Mama Della’s] survive?” Irvine asks. “Yes, absolutely. It has great potential. It all depends on how Barry handles himself and his conversations with guests.”
Restaurant: Impossible is now in its eighth season, and next Wednesday’s episode will be its 100th. No matter where Irvine visits next, he’s always surprised.
“You never know what you’re walking into,” he says. “I don’t know anything beforehand. I choose not to. When I walk in, I’m giving you exactly what I think. That’s important for the show and for me that you’re getting that reaction first-hand. If it’s good, I’ll tell you. I’m there to show you what’s going on in somebody’s life and how we can fix it with proper cooking techniques and a redesign. I love that we’re able to do that.”
Irvine says he’s had fun with this season and loves that he’s able to be in a position to give hope to struggling business owners. Though he keeps a busy schedule, if he’s ever back in the Capital City, he says he will definitely pop in at Mama Della’s.