Several weeks ago we were contacted by some people in the USA asking us if would agree to being filmed at work for their TV series called Food Paradise International for the Travel Channel. We have had a camera or two here before. Just last year we received Touring Club Italia recognition for our ribollita dish – it was easy. They arrived, they took some photos and they went away – 30 minutes tops!
But as the date neared, the pressure upped! Three dishes to be chosen, demonstrated from start to finish, plus “beauty shots” of a third dish during prep, cooking and presentation. And there would be 8 people arriving in order to conduct the whole operation. From the 3 in the afternoon (exactly our scheduled prep time for the evening service) until 9.30 in the evening. We admit it, panic dominated. How on earth could we prep in time? How could the kitchen possibly operate with cameras, cables, lights, sound devices and extra bodies? Visions of our wait-staff tripping on cables and running into set-lighting apparatus was the stuff of our nightmares. We very nearly got ice-cold feet and decided the whole thing was too stressful. But Giovanni made the final decision “Let’s do it” he said “it might be a disaster, but it might be really fun!“.
They came, they trailed cables everywhere, set-up lights all over the place, turned our air-conditioning off because it makes too much background noise. They brought enormous black bags of equipment, and they drank us dry of cappuccinos! They were very funny and with a ton of patience for all of us “”non-film star” types. In the kitchen Luigi, under the total effects of stage terror, attempted to demonstrate two of our classic dishes, pici with sausage ragù and the tortelli with porcini mushrooms and truffle sauce. The eyes of the eight American technicians upon him, not to mention his colleagues taking the opportunity for staged-selfies with Luigi and the film crew in the background didn’t make it easy for him. After about an hour’s hesistant shooting, Caterina gave orders for a small beer. Luigi obediently chugged it down, and things just took off!
Staff dinner just didn’t happen, but Nicola made sure that copious plates of ham and cheeses with bread were placed at strategic points in the restaurant, so that in the half-hour that was left before “doors open”, staff could enjoy a “running sandwich” (literally!). Caterina had ensured that most prep had been done before the crew even arrived, so the night was ready.
Our first guests were a honeymoon couple who turned up way too early, but were happy to sit with some glasses of prosecco and coccoli whilst they waited, and in return we asked if they would mind being interviewed by the crew regards their meal. Which they most gracefully did for us! Whilst diners dined and waiters ran and kitchen staff produced, the crew carried on and did their stuff. At about 10 pm they called it a wrap and got down the serious stuff – a full-on L’Osteria di Giovanni meal! We all commented afterwards that if they were looking for genuine customer reactions to the food, they just quite simply should have filmed themselves. “Oooooohs” and “Aaaaaaaaahs” abounded at each mouthful. Finally at nearly midnight the whole thing was over, and the kitchen was shiny clean again, and the last of the crumbs were being swept from the dining hall floors.
We only expect to have a few minutes coverage in the Hometown Heroes programme. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too. Whilst we know now more than ever that none of us will ever be Hollywood A-listers or win an Oscar, it was fun being in the spotlight just for a single day.