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.