It only took 15 minutes to fill every table at Mamma Lucrezia’s Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant for its grand re-opening July 17 after word got out Wednesday that The Food Network’s “ Restaurant Impossible” would take over the Bellefonte eatery.
Co-producer Nicholas Smalarz announced Wednesday that a “Restaurant Impossible” crew will film an episode at Mamma Lucrezia’s on July 16-17 — and that the public is invited to dine during the filming of the finale.
“It’s crazy,” owner Maria Albegiani said after the announcement was made. “The phone’s been ringing off the hook.”
Celebrity chef and host Robert Irvine’s weekly challenge on the show is to “save America’s most desperate restaurants from impending failure.”
On the show, Irvine critiques failing restaurants, then — in the course of just two days and with $10,000 — sets out to return them to profitability.
“I’m just as excited as I am scared,” Albegiani said about her restaurant, at 136 S. Allegheny St., having been chosen for an episode.
Albegiani said Mamma Lucrezia’s has been getting a generally negative response from the community on social media websites.
“These people have no clue what it’s like to run a business and run one on your own with little to no help,” she said. “If they did, then they wouldn’t be saying those negative things and it’s hurtful. I’m human and I do need a little bit of a break sometimes or I won’t make it into the next day.”
Albegiani said she went through a series of applications for the show and, in May, was accepted. She hopes to get advice from an expert about changing the menu and finding employees who are passionate about their jobs and helping out.
“I want it to be unique — to bring in something that you have to come to Mamma’s to have,” Albegiani said about the restaurant she named after her mother, who died when Albegiani was a child.
She said she’s also looking for advice about how to deal with employees from someone “who’s so knowledgeable about the business.”
“The focus is on finding some employees and hope they’re good employees,” Albegiani said.
Albegiani said she opened the restaurant, which has five employees, 10 years ago — when she was 23.
“Restaurant Impossible” airs Wednesday nights on the Food Network. The Mamma Lucrezia’s episode will air in late summer, Smalarz said.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo. Assignment editor Alison Boston contributed to this story.