Food Network’s Restaurant Stakeout to Target Nauna’s Bella Casa Next Week

Foodie TV addicts, set that DVR, or better yet, tune in Wednesday, September 5, at 10:00 p.m, when one of Food Network’s newest shows, Restaurant Stakeout, airs an episode filmed at Montclair’s Nauna’s Bella Casa last month.

The relatively new show’s concept is to unleash tough-love restauranteer Willie Degel and his hidden cameras, to expose missteps and help restaurant owners improve service and customer satisfaction (though, from where we sit, Nauna’s already scores high on both counts, not to mention its delicious food!).

While the show’s website, in typical breathless reality show fashion, makes things sound worse than they are, Nauna’s owner Tom Moloughney, says he agreed to the project — after turning down several TV overtures — to pinpoint what he could do differently so that his restaurant runs more smoothly when he’s not in the building, in order to “stop working 80 hours a week and work 50 instead.”

Filming took place over four days in July, when Moloughney was banned from his eatery, and cameras and production crew took over. When he was allowed back in, Moloughney had a long sit-down with host Degel, who operates several successful restaurants in New York City, some of which was captured on film.

“He talked to me about training, protocols, and he shared issues he’d solved at his restaurants, systems he put in place. We had a lot of great conversations about running a restaurant,” Moloughney explained. “On TV he (Degel) has this bravado, but in person he’s intelligent, soft spoken and really knows the restaurant business. They were good, productive converstations.”

As “reality” shows go, Moloughney is aware that some of what eventually airs may appear scripted or coached, but he’s confident his loyal Montclair customers will understand. A bump in business is likely too, as viewers in outlying towns, and others who have not been to Nauna’s before may drop by out of curiosity — and stay for the food.

Viewers of Restaurant Stakeout are used to Degel swooping in to “save” the restaurant, but Moloughney thinks Nauna’s episode will be different. “The gist of our show was not controversy. We’ve been in business nearly 26 years and are actually going very strong. The idea is to help improve what we’ve already built upon and put a system in place so I won’t have to be here all the time, so I can spend more time with my wife and start a family.”

Still, we wouldn’t be too shocked if, through the lens of reality TV, everything doesn’t look quite so dandy. Moloughney is ready for his close-up, though, noting that a bit of Hollywood embellishment is to be expected. “You know what? You have to laugh at yourself,” he says. And Montclairians know that his Valley Road restaurant has come back from much worse than a little overexposure.

Since Nauna’s closes at 10 on Wednesday, Moloughney and his staff will be watching the episode’s debut at a private viewing party.

If you don’t catch the prime time show, you can tune in a few hours later, at 1:00 a.m. on Sept. 6, or at 11:00 p.m. on Sept. 9.

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  1. I hadn’t been to Naunas in a good fifteen plus years, but we went this past Saturday and I must say the food was really very good. I hope the show does them justice.

  2. I was surprised last night, shocked, actually, when I read that Nauna’s would be the subject of next week’s episode. We’ve loved Nauna’s since we moved here over four years ago, and I can’t think of a more unlikely candidate in this town. Given that this is probably one of the most ’embellished’ food reality shows in production, the episode should be interesting.

  3. Thank you for the support Steven, and I do appreciate the business. As the article pointed out, I have been approached before for Food Network shows and have turned them down because most of them want to come in an say that they hod to save the place. Nauna’s doesn’t need saving, we are doing quite well in fact, so even to be on TV, I couldn’t agree to do that.

    When I was approached by the producers of this show, they told me they weren’t looking to say they needed to save Nauna’s or anything like that. They said they did their research and knew we were a very busy, successful restaurant but were looking to do a show on us anyway and wanted to discuss what the ‘angle’ could be to make it work. They wanted to have a different show rather than every episode being the same story of a struggling restaurant that needs fixing. We came up with a plot and went with it. I hope people realize everything they see on ‘reality’ television isn’t always reality, because there is going to be some things on the show that you see that may make you scratch your head. I think our customers will easily pick out what may be real and what may have had a little coaching.
    Why did we do it if it’s going to expose things that may or may not be 100% accurate? Well it’s still good to have an hour show dedicated to your restaurant on the Food Network, as long as it doesn’t portray the place as a disaster, and this isn’t going to be that bad. Sometimes you have to just laugh at yourself a bit.

  4. Someone should investigate the eggplant rollatini – my husband and I were frequent diners until our last visit I was served a rollatini that was more reminiscent of a stuffed poblano. Sans ricotta & heavy on the mozzarella. This might be a job for Chef Ramsay.

  5. I love Nauna’s, so does my husband, mother, father, brother, grandmother, father’s coworkers….the list goes on! My usual meal is the eggplant parm or rollatini with a side of penne vodka. My husband and I usually split a broccoli rabe for an appetizer. Pizza is delicious too!

  6. Much luck to you, Tom. We’ve been your loyal customers and friends since we moved to Montclair in ’96. Want to do a follow up about what happened on my show? You’re one of TV34’s most favorite guests.

  7. Thanks for the nice comments everyone. lucylou: Sure I’ll come on and talk about the experience. It was an interesting week of filming to say the least. I think some that watch the show may be scratching their heads at some of it, but I expect it to be a fun show.
    shoppoholic: I’d love to discuss this with you if you don’t mind, I’m at

  8. I see here that Nauna’s has been nominated, by the readers of Suburban Essex magazine, as being the “BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT” and as making the “BEST PIZZA” and I voted for them in both categories.

  9. we order delivery from Nauna’s quite often and it’s always delicious; the order comes as ordered (not missing items, or with overcooked food!). when the phone is answered, it’s by a courteous and efficient person, who “gets” customer service. it’s no wonder, Tom, that you spend 80 hours a week there; it’s apparent in the quality and service. i’m looking forward to tonight’s show and regardless of the “drama,” will continue to patronize Nauna’s. (i hope youre able to reach your goal to learn how to delegate to someone who cares as much as you do.)

  10. I’ve said it before (a reply on the Patch) and I’ll say it again:
    We’ve been going to Nauna’s since before Ariel was born (she’s 17 and attending college now), we used to take her there when she was a baby, sit her on the counter, and Tommy, Sean, & Eileen (that would be Tommy’s Mom) would play with her & call her “Ariel Speedwagon” (much to her chagrin when she got older)…
    About two weeks ago I had a day off after dropping Ariel off in Worcester, MA, and we went there for dinner. Eileen (Tommy’s Mom) recognized me before I even saw her, with a “Where’ve you been? You look GREAT!” (I explained to her that I work nights)…
    Anwyay, Tommy, Sean, & Eileen are the nicest, friendliest folks in this town I know and the food is consistently delicious!! And that’s putting it mildly. We took my Outlaws there after one of Ariel’s shows in May, and I watched my rather gangley Father-In-Law devour an entire–and I mean huge- plate of Calamari Marinara (or did he get the Fra Diavolo?)- in one fell swoop…I knew I had to try *that*, and now it’s my new favorite. But no way can I eat the whole thing in one sitting. I have it for breakfast the next day…;-)
    And…I’ve had the Eggplant Rollatini. No complaints there!
    As a matter of fact, I could go for some right now!!!

  11. Nauna’s is very good. I’ve seen some really bad stuff happening at restaurants on this show. It’s seems like they just need a lil bit of tweaking make it even better.

  12. Watched the show, and would love to know what was staged and what was not. How can all those bizarre things happen in just four days? But I loved when Willie named dropped “Enzo’s down the block.” My wife and I howled.
    What I believed:The two managers just hanging out behind the cash register and throwing slices in the carousel oven — Sorry guys, I’ve seen that. Also, the bad phone etiquette, the texting, the nail polish.
    What I found harder to believe:The “spill”, the turning customer wine into a drink, the broccoli/broccoli rabe backtalk.Honestly, if some of these ladies did some of these things, the right move would be firing them, not having wishy-washy “please be better” conversations with them as Willie did, destroying the integrity of his “character” and robbing the show of any real payoff.

  13. Joelscorp: I hope you enjoyed the show, we had a lot of fun doing it. I actually told Willy to use Enzo’s name, we get along fine with the guys over there. They wanted to know where a customer might go if they weren’t happy with our place so I said right next door to Enzo’s. If you really want to know what went on, stop by sometime and we’ll be happy to tell you how everything went down. Understand, they need material to make these shows interesting. You are 100% correct, if employees did some of what was shown they would deserve to be fired. So far (1 day) the effect has been very positive. We had dozens of calls today, some people just calling to tell us they liked the show and hundreds of customers – more than a usual Thursday many of which came in and told us they saw the show. Lot’s of questions like you have about what really happened. We also have a huge bump in reservations for the weekend already. Judging from the response today, most people that came in didn’t believe what the vast majority of what they saw…

  14. Saw the show last night. I agree the problems were mostly just sloppy management of a good restaurant. People should be more likely, not less likely, to come to Nauna’s after seeing it.

    At the risk of sounding like Paul Lynde in Bye Bye Birdie (or showing that I can remember lyrics from Bye Bye Birdie), the how-dare-you-make-me-work attitude, the compulsive texting, the corner-cutting by the younger staff is pretty much epidemic among the kids who work retail anywhere. It’s easy to fire employees (insert Romney jokes here), and harder to do what Tom did….to tell them what’s expected of them, believe in them, and set up systems and procedures that make it easy for them to do the right thing the next time.

  15. Are you really telling us that what happened on the show was set up for dramatic effect? Thank God I still have the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

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