ELYRIA — During moments of conflict onscreen when chef Robert Irvine criticized Moss’ Prime Rib & Spaghetti House, audience members watching shouted, “Go Sandi!”
The “Restaurant: Impossible” show featuring Moss’ aired Wednesday night on the Food Network, and owner Sandi Laubenthal hosted a watch party at her downtown restaurant.
The Broad Street restaurant received a $10,000 renovation in October from Irvine and his Food Network team, which included new carpeting, a new coat of paint and changes to lighting.
When the show began, the volume on the televisions wasn’t very high, so people in the restaurant quieted.
When Irvine came in, he was highly critical, saying, “This place looks like a funeral home,” and he could be seen sticking out his tongue at the taste of some of the food.
About Moss’ signature prime rib, Irvine said, “It’s cooked correctly, but it’s very bland.”
Upon tasting some of the other dishes, he said, “No wonder nobody comes in.”
The audience “oohed” and cheered Laubenthal, who said onscreen, “It’s down-home. I don’t know what to tell you, but I’m up for the challenge.”
On the show, Laubenthal talked about buying Moss’ 11 years ago, and that business had been good, but over the past two years, it “dropped dramatically,” she said.
Laubenthal talked about losing $20,000 a month and her fears about losing the restaurant. The building is up for sale for $339,000 and has been on the market for 4½ months.
Irvine also criticized Laubenthal for becoming defensive and lashing out at her staff and customers.
During a commercial break, Laubenthal said she wasn’t as anxious about seeing herself onscreen as she thought she would be.
“It’s not ‘Restaurant: Impossible’ that’s going to save Moss’,” she said. “It’s what ‘Restaurant: Impossible’ taught me, not only about the business, but about myself.”
She added, “It’s not about me. It’s about everybody in this room.”
Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda sat in the crowded bar area. Brinda said she hoped the show would spur renewed interest in Moss’ and in downtown Elyria. She congratulated Laubenthal on her courage in presenting a not-always-flattering picture of her restaurant to a national audience.
“It took courage to do what she did,” Brinda said. “She’s a tough lady, but she’s a thoughtful lady and she really cares about Elyria.”
Brinda said she’s seen more people come into the restaurant since the renovation and updated menu.
There were some things that Moss’ regulars couldn’t part with, like the restaurant’s pea salad. It was taken off the menu briefly after Irvine’s changes, but customers pushed to keep it.
“I think people fought against the taking away of the pea salad,” Brinda said. “I was one of those people.”
Several people who worked on some of the renovations were there as well, along with Moss’ regulars.
Patty Freeman, an Elyrian who worked as an assistant to Irvine’s designer, said, “I think the restaurant changed in a really dramatic way. It’s a lot more contemporary, bringing the younger generation in.”
Freeman emphasized the sense of community that the restaurant created.
“We are all here because we support this restaurant,” she said.
If you missed last night’s show, you can catch it 9 p.m. Feb. 15 on the Food Network.