Kitchen Nightmares Pantaleones Denvers Best Pizza Eater National
“To thoroughly enjoy the glory that is season seven of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay, please welcome Alison Leiby, who will be here every week to take us through the season. This past Friday Fox aired a special double-header: Part one was a revisit to Amy’s Baking Company and part two was set in Pantaleone’s in Denver.
If there’s one thing we know about people on reality television, it’s that they think they are the best. The best fashion designer (Project Runway), the best singer (American Idol), the best trophy wife turned handbag designers/cookbook “author” (every other show). So it’s no surprise that on this week’s Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsay visits a restaurant owner who thinks he’s the best. Meet Pete Panteleone, owner of Pantaleone’s in Denver, home of the “Best Pizza in Denver” (at least according to one person in 1991).
Pete and his wife Paulette have owned their pizza restaurant since 1985, which opened to wonderful reviews and local awards. That was almost thirty years ago, and now customers u2014 as well as most of the staff u2014 almost universally agree that the food is terrible. Pete has been coasting on the early praise, but the restaurant is slowly declining. I mean, I get it. My second grade teacher told me I was the smartest kid in class and I basically haven’t tried since.
Ramsay shows up to the restaurant to meet the owners and see what’s really going on with the food. He greets Pete, and after some brief pizza chat he asks, “Where in Italy are you from?” Pete answers, “I’m not Italian, I’m Greek!” and we’re off to a racially-charged start.
The owners explain the current state of the business to Ramsay, specifically what times the business is closed. Pete doesn’t work on Sundays because he likes to watch football. Oh is that how business works? Well, I like to eat brunch and get hammered when it’s still light out, but if I didn’t work every time that was an option I’m pretty sure no one would hire me. Pete also takes a siesta every afternoon. That’s right, he has nap time. He gets tired during the day. And then takes a nap instead of staying awake and working like an adult. If it wasn’t such a terrible business plan I’d want to live it myself.
Once Ramsay has met the owners, learned about the business, and come to understand their daytime sleep schedules, he sits down for lunch to try the food and this alleged “best pizza in Denver.” He orders a sausage pizza, a meatball hero, a pizza calzone, and linguini with clams. Waiting for his food he glances around and notes that the dining room has the atmosphere of a hospital, which is pretty accurate.
The room is mostly what you’d expect of a not great pizza restaurant: dated colors, wood paneling, cheap tablecloths and place settings. There is one special point in the room though that Ramsay can’t stop staring at. It’s a framed image (I can’t say photo and I can’t say painting because it’s neither of those) of a neon green hologram of a clown. I have to imagine that they hired a meth head in the middle of a fever dream to decorate and were just like, “Here’s $10, see what’s at Spencer’s Gifts. Also try and stick to our design theme of ‘terror.'”
As upsetting as the 3D nightmare Mona Lisa that is the clown hologram is, what truly horrifies Ramsay is the food. Before Ramsay’s food comes, he asks a fellow patron how their sandwich is. The patron replies that it tastes like cat food. He then joked about how he knew what cat food tasted like, implying he obviously did not, but his facial hair choices really said otherwise to me.”