Waking from Chef Ramsay's Nightmare

Stamford Restaurant Gets Help from Foul-Mouthed Celeb Chef

The foul mouthed chef with a taste for chewing up young chefs and spitting them out has hit Connecticut.

And from the sound of it Chef Gordon Ramsay, of  Hell's Kitchen fame, had quite the field day taking over his latest restaurant -- Sabatiello's in Stamford.

A guy who goes by the name of Sammy owns Sabatiello's. His run-in with Ramsay started one afternoon in February when two diners asked to speak with him.

"They said the food is tremendous, the place is spotless, but we don't get why you're not packed," Sammy said. He told them it was because of some new restaurants that opened nearby.

It turned out those diners were scouts for Kitchen Nightmares, another Ramsay creation.

"I wanted to try and be on network TV," said Sammy.  "I wanted the exposure, I needed the help."

Needing the help is an understatement.  The sagging economy has hit Sabatiello's hard, leaving the restaurant nearly $1 million in debt. Sammy says diners are eating out less, parties are getting smaller or disappearing, and costs are going up. 

That's why he agreed to let Ramsey take over his kitchen.

Remembering the Ramsay Run-in

"It was a little crazy in the beginning because you don't see what he's doing," Sammy said.  "You don't know how much is real and how much he's staged. I didn't know when people were really complaining or when he sent me fake people to complain. Everything I did was wrong."

Everything, including his mother's lasagna.

"He liked mom's lasagna, but he didn't like what my guy was doing with it.  He said, 'You should make one tray a day, not two or three at a time like you're working in the army,'" said Sammy.  "He was right. He was absolutely right. The lasagnas been flying out of here ever since."

The change to the lasagna wasn't the only one.

"He told me I needed to cut back on the old school Italian cooking. You had to make little changes. Make it more inviting."

Which is exactly what Ramsay did, transforming it into more of an Italian Steakhouse of sorts. It took some work - and some patience - but Sammy said Ramsay knew what he was talking about.

"In the beginning, he's really critical and then wants to help you. Then you see the light," said Sammy.

Ramsay's known for having a temper, and apparently so is Sammy. So imagine Sammy's surprise when Ramsay told him to chill out.

"We went at it a little bit -- a lot actually. He taught me I have to relax a little," said Sammy.  "I couldn't believe I was hearing him telling me that. He's the guy that flips at the drop of a dime. To hear him say that was -- wow.  But he was right."

The cost

Speaking of the drop of a dime, it costs Sabatiello's much more than that for the production. It's something that surprised Sammy.

"It did hurt me when we were filming. He gave us a few dollars to close for the week, but it wasn't enough to compensate us for the business we lost," he said.  "I was a little disappointed because I thought we'd get more out of it than we did."

When asked if he'd go through the closure and filming again, Sammy was torn.

"If I could do it all over again, I don't know," he said. "I've got a little mixed emotions. Because I thought they would give a lot more, give more money for being closed, give me a new awning, give me a new stove maybe. They often do that kind of thing.  But nope -- not for us."

With any luck, Sabatiello's will get a boost in business after the episode aired Thursday night on Kitchen Nightmares. Sammy's hopeful his old recipes, new creations and more laid back attitude - thanks to Ramsey - will bring people back to the dinner table -- his table.

"The reason I did this was because I didn't want to give up.  And I'm not about to give up now". 

 What the diners said

Diners were offered a $20 credit in February to come in on a Sunday and Monday in February to try the "before" dishes. 

That Tuesday and Wednesday, diners got to sample from the new restaurant. Many diners posted their experiences with the food, the crew, and Ramsey on a forum that you can read here.

Contact Us