Food & Drink

Community Supports Starlite and Spango Family as Restaurant Impossible Ambush Show Airs on National TV

e94a03561be6c2701e1c_amb_1.jpg
Reveal of new Chef  Pat Turano at end of episode -- he is on far Left Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
4a403b9736b587fd1b46_abad9f24da1fecc7ec9c_ronaaa9.JPG
Back row, from left: WOBOE President Laura Lab, Patty Spango, Councilman Jerry Guarino and wife Robin. Front: BOE member Ron Charles wife Idalina Charles,  Credits: provided by Ron Charles
222159ab17d936bcb877_amb_4.jpg
A happy Patty Spango. Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
5c26d94059d2c3965ace_amb_14.jpg
Patty is surprised. Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
255482525d9e17e0d856_amb_16.jpg
Spangos at the reveal - after. Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
164c5b36f9feef740a2a_amb_15.jpg
Spangos at the reveal - before. Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
fb41ba6408ccf51bd3f9_amb_7.jpg
Meeting the designers. Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
af0bd6163d8d6f4bcd9a_63bf2e3e1b9d822d9bb7_wade_1.JPG
Evelyn Wade, Patty Spango and Billie Chaleff Credits: provided by Evelyn Wade
1847b9668299fc0fc0cd_b3e118b509b30b28d01d_ronaaa8.JPG
Drinks at Starlite Credits: Ron Charles
644c7ef49bedfd2f798e_8b4bce24a559ea841e75_ronaaa7.JPG
Guests Credits: Ron Charles
be0df1fd95c28d0948d6_19f727cdcb124d6f081c_ronaaa6.JPG
Guests Credits: Ron Charles
a0ee8ed6c941834ca0a3_84dee521a67067dbc94e_ronaaa5.JPG
Guests Credits: Ron Charles
5db0ec587622b366df8b_ronaaa4.JPG
Dessert Credits: Ron Charles
f547dcc83a40acf855c8_bafa91c5c3315879e3dd_ronaaa3.JPG
Dinner Credits: Ron Charles
4bb1b62082b3fd9cb623_8b09cc3712c4e0202b0f_7253cf17f7af9b4348d0_ad0edd3c0fc12454e89f_ronaaa2.JPG
Dinner Credits: Ron Charles
4b70cd4818276e0faf61_6fb126093d04a6dff826_ronaaa1.JPG
Guests Credits: Ron Charles
052ea156a948fced1304_amb_2.jpg
Guests including Julie Orenstein (far left). Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
d237aa763ed73548f922_amb_3.jpg
Guests Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
6751531e5fceab54cd13_amb_5.jpg
TAP's own Joe Ricci. Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
ec3645c8c63f67a4f6be_amb_6.jpg
TAP's own Joe Ricci (right) and husband Marco enter Starlite. Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
91c4a51eff2203b2a072_amb_11.jpg
Before shot Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
acbd18cca06292137a20_amb_9.jpg
After shot Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
febe95fbab5dd795aa9f_amb_10.jpg
After shot of bar. Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
f1264beef8c9ecbd8870_amb_12.jpg
After shot. Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
b22f643e4ba56ab2eb2f_amb_13.jpg
After shot Credits: Screen shot by Jackie Goldman-Schatell
dbbf95b1649ac9460193_6e42ae1447ec57c9aa33_wade_2.JPG
Guests Credits: Evelyn Wade
e94a03561be6c2701e1c_amb_1.jpg

WEST ORANGE, NJ – The premier of the new season of Restaurant Impossible launched on March 9, with the transformation of West Orange’s own Starlite Restaurant and Pizza. Chef Robert Irvine and his TV and design crews ambushed the restaurant in January with the goal of turning it around in a day’s time and giving it a new lease on life.

A packed house at the restaurant viewed it live with owner Patty Spango, her family and staff. An update at the end of the show indicated that after two months, sales are up 50 percent.

Starlite opened in 1961, and Patty began working there at 13 as a member of the wait staff. In 1989, she bought the restaurant and began putting her “heart and soul” as well as $1 million into it. Once a landmark, the business stopped turning a profit in 2008.

Sign Up for E-News

Patty, whose sons Jim and Ralph work with her at Starlite, said over the years, there were times when she had to go into her own pocket to pay her staff.

Unbeknownst to Patty, Jim created a video asking for help that was submitted to Irvine.

When Irvine arrived at Starlite on Jan. 6, 2016, using a ruse of a gas leak as a way to get Patty to Starlite early in the morning, he was surprised at what he saw.

The show addressed years of neglect that Patty admitted happened as a result of her not managing the staff efficiently.

A professional cleaning crew of eight people was called in to clean the kitchen, with the effort taking 12 hours overnight. However, this effort paid off the next day when the health department made a surprise visit to inspect the kitchen, which passed inspection.

Unfortunately, the hiring of the cleaning crew and the purchase of two new refrigerators seriously cut into the show’s overall budget of $10,000, which included the redecorating budget.

On Jan. 7, Irvine’s demolition crew, which included members of the community invited via social media, got to work. Some demolished, while others moved furniture and scrubbed the restaurant from top to bottom.

The place was then painted a crisp white to give it a more airy feel. Black and white designs were used as the new theme that was carried over to the 75 reupholstered chairs. Frosted window panels lined in black were placed over the windows. They serve to allow light in and to act as wall decorations, rather than costly art work.

In addition, a buffet was built for storage and decoration and the bar was updated.

With Patty working every night except Tuesdays, doing almost everything but cooking, Irvine put out a call on social media for servers and chefs. He said Patty needed more staff members.

At the same time, the Starlite chef of 30 years, who Patty admitted she had trouble managing, quit.

The next day, five chef applicants: Paul Resko, Giulo Luca, Pat Turano, Tom Schuckman and Martin Rangel, were invited for interviews, which took place at the Essex House in West Orange. They were each tasked with creating a signature dish in 20 minutes using anything they found in the kitchen. They were told that they would be narrowed down to three, who would work at the grand re-opening, and then Patty would choose a new chef. She ultimately chose Turano.

During the show, Patty said that she loved the restaurant business, had been at a point where she was no longer loving it, and that Irvine was helping her to feel invigorated again.

When Patty Jim and Ralph arrived for the big reveal on Jan. 7, their emotion was palpable, and Patty and Ralph were brought to tears.

Patty looked around in awe and said the place was “absolutely gorgeous,” and “magnificent,” adding “oh my God this is amazing,” and “this is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

She told Irvine, “You changed my life.” She also shared that while she had been in the business for 52 years, she had learned more in the 24 hours she spent with Irvine.

Then it was time for the big reveal, where Patty excitedly opened the doors to the members of the community waiting to be the first ones inside to see the new and improved restaurant.

Guests included West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi, Councilwoman and President of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce Susan McCartney and her husband Joe, Mark and Julie Orenstein and TAP into West Orange’s own Joe Ricci and his husband Marco, just to name a few.

Ricci said that the meatballs were “close” to the kind his mom made.

Parisi said, “As the Mayor of West Orange, I am thrilled to see a place like Starlite have an opportunity to start over again. To see a new life with Patty and the Spango family is an exciting opportunity for them and a great day for the community.”

Patty said, “I am going to make sure there is a line outside of Starlite waiting to get into Starlite. I know I can make this succeed.”

A waiter working at the restaurant on Wednesday said that in its heyday there was always a line around the block waiting to get into Starlite. He added he was hoping that now with the help of Irvine and the show, the new 17-item menu, which was scaled down from over 90 items, a new chef and look and feel, that Starlite would once again become an icon.

According to Livingston resident Evelyn Wade, who ate at Starlite on Wednesday, the crowd watching the show live with the Spangos was lively and excited. Wade said it was a supportive environment with people cheering during the reveal of the newly reconfigured and decorated restaurant on TV.

She added that there was a “real sense of community” at the event, with people getting up to chat with each other all night, and said she felt it was a very good experience and that the food was delicious.

Wade and her friend, Billie Challeff, also of Livingston, each got the same meal, which included a “yummy” green salad with craisins, walnuts and goat cheese, the meatball appetizer and baked eggplant.  Wade said that throughout the evening, Patty appeared upbeat and seemed to feel touched by the supportive people around her. She also said Patty looked satisfied.

“The staff seemed very much like a family,” said Wade.

Chaleff, who said she has being going to Starlite since she was little with her family, was impressed with the look of the restaurant.

“The place looks beautiful and homey, “she said, and added, “I love the colors used and would use them in my own home.”

West Orange Councilman Jerry Guarino, who also attended the airing of the show at Starlite said, “Watching the show at Starlite was a lot of fun, especially with Patty’s family there. The food was great.”

Another diner, West Orange Board of Education member Ronald Charles said, “‎The transformation is incredible. The design crew and contractors did a wonderful job. Hopefully, this will be the rebirth of a better Starlite for the Spango family. I wish them good luck.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

West Orange

One Free Class at Cycle Bar Livingston

April 23, 2018

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Get a free ride at Cycle Bar Livingston. Livingston’s premium indoor cycling facility invites the public to sign up for their first ride free.

Click HERE to see the full class schedule.

During this week only, Cycle Bar is also participating in the Livingston Fitness Crawl, offering five days of free classes through Friday.  

Cycle Bar ...

Livingston Fitness Crawl: Five Days of Free Classes at 12 Livingston Businesses

LIVINGSTON, NJ — The public is invited to enjoy one free class at as many of Livingston’s fitness businesses as they would like during this week’s Livingston Fitness Crawl, a Livingston Business Improvement District event, beginning on April 23 and continuing through April 27.

For five days, no purchase is necessary at the following locations:

BARRE3 ...

Full Pet Grooming Service 25% OFF

LITTLE FALLS, NJ - Cloud Canine Grooming Salon & Spa in Little Falls is open for business and owner and pet stylist Melissa DiRoma is offering 25% off a FULL GROOMING SERVICE for all new customers. Call (973) 837-8884 or visit http://cloudcaninesalon.com to schedule your appointment. Mention promo code TAP DOG for discount. 

About Cloud ...

Free Wellness Event at The Joint Chiropractic

WEST CALDWELL, NJ — The public is invited to a "Wellness Event to Remember" at The Joint Chiropractic in West Caldwell on Thursday, April 19 from 7 p.m. to  9 p.m.

Guests will include:

Michael Piercy, owner of The Lab
Justyna Debski, owner of Revive Mind Body
Karen Caplan, owner of Nutrition Transitions

Join the ...

Luxury Facial Services 50% OFF

MILLBURN, NJ - DeAmour Salon & Spa is proud to announce its newest team member, Renee Rudikh, formerly of the famous Georgette Klinger Spa at the Short Hills Mall.

Rudikh has extensive experience and specializes in a plethora of facial styles including: deep pore cleansing/European, microdermabrasion with collagen, teenage, men's, back, LED and customized European ...

YMCA $0 Enrollment in April

LIVINGSTON, NJ - For the month of April, the West Essex YMCA is offer $0 enrollment. 

Take advantage of all that your local Y has to offer for the whole family!

Personal Training
Group Classes
Swimming
Camp
Childcare 
Low monthly membership
And much much more!...

Check out all that the Y has to offer HERE

About the West Essex YMCA:
The West Essex YMCA has ...

Women Need Better Treatment Behind Bars, Lawmakers Say

April 24, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - Middlesex County Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) held a roundtable discussion on Monday with criminal justice reform advocates and formally incarcerated women to discuss legislation Lopez and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle are introducing, modeled after legislation Booker introduced in the Senate, to reform the way women are treated behind ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_ef0d6423aefa47ca7bd5_screen_shot_2018-03-16_at_4.56.35_pm

Thu, April 26, 5:30 PM

West Orange High School - Cafeteria, West Orange

Annual Spaghetti Dinner

Food & Drink

Sun, April 29, 3:30 PM

Codey Arena, West Orange

Girls Try Hockey Free Clinic

Sports

Letter to the Editor: Lions Club of West Orange Spaghetti Dinner

April 16, 2018

Dear Editor,

Since 1953, the Lions Club of West Orange has been recognized throughout the township for our service to the blind and visually impaired. A majority of the world’s eye banks, clinics, and eye research centers are established and supported by all Lions Clubs throughout the world.

We are men and women committed to helping provide quality eye care, eye ...

Register for the New Senior Gardening Program in West Orange

April 25, 2018

WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange residents 60 years or older are invited to register for a new gardening program at the Orange/West Orange UNICO Chapter Nicholas Vecchio Garden in Degnan Park.

Beginning on May 10 and continuing every Thursday afternoon, seniors will be able to prep, plant and harvest their own garden beds.

For more information or to register for this new program, ...

Lock Down Initiated After Stray Bullet Found at Morristown High School

April 24, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ -  Morristown High School was on a school-wide lock down as of 1 p.m. on Tuesday after a stray bullet was discovered on the athletic fields of the school. 

Police were on the scene and currently investigating the incident. The school initiated a "shelter in place," which means instruction continued as students stayed in their ...

Cluelessly Clueless

I teenaged my way through high school under the assumption that my parents had no idea what I was doing.  I like to think I was pretty good at withholding information and presenting situations in ways that were other than they really were.

 

Still, sometimes they found things out.  Like the time my friends plopped me on our front door step at one o'clock in the morning ...

'The Sting' shimmers and shakes at Paper Mill

‘The Sting ‘slithers and shakes at Paper Mill Playhouse

By LIZ KEILL

MILLBURN, NJ – In a premiere production of “The Sting,” Harry Connick Jr. commands the Paper Mill Playhouse stage in Millburn.

Based on the sensational Paul Newman/Robert Redford film in 1973, the 1930s plot centers on a con game and gambling, sometimes on a train between New York and ...