Rocco's 'Restaurant' Serving Seconds

Monday, April 19, 2004

By one measure, this is a bad time to observe TV-Turnoff Week (search): It happens there are a number of interesting programs scheduled for the 10th annual call for television abstinence by the TV-Turnoff Network. (See for details.)

On the other hand, if this is a week when you would be tempted to watch even more television than usual, then, logically, not watching any TV would gain you all the more free time to spend on other things.

But if TV-Turnoff Week is an idea that turns you off, one show worth turning on is "The Restaurant" (search), serving seconds as it returns for a new season 10 p.m. EST Monday on NBC.

You may recall that last summer, this "unscripted drama" chronicled the inner workings of a real-life Manhattan dining spot an Italian eatery named Rocco's, the brainchild of celeb chef Rocco DiSpirito, which was created in a near-impossible seven weeks, then opened to uncertain success.

Picking up six months later, this season's half-dozen episodes get much spicier as they track Rocco in a real-life battle with his financier, Jeffrey Chodorow.

"We have 22 restaurants," Chodorow tells his corporate staff in an emergency meeting. "Twenty-one of them make money, and one loses money." That would be Rocco's operation. "Yet it's one of our busiest restaurants."

Chodorow comes across as tough guy who sees just two solutions for "a restaurant that's not making money: close it or fix it."

Meanwhile, Rocco is a star who, despite his professed dedication to the restaurant, finds little time to visit, what with his jam-packed schedule of personal appearances and TV cooking gigs.

The line between them has been drawn and the tug of war for control of the restaurant has begun. You know this thing is serious when Rocco pulls a reality-TV no-no: he bars the cameras from one face-off with Chodorow.

Always a better TV show than eating place, "The Restaurant" is now dishing up real drama. It's delicious!,2933,117462,00.html