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Rocco DiSpirito is an American celebrity chef best known for his cooking show The Melting Pot and reality show The Restaurant.
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Audiences were fascinated by the challenges DiSpirito and his staff faced in getting the restaurant ready for business. And the drama did not stop once the eatery’s doors were open. Customers complained about slow service. Staff members bickered with each other. There was even a fire in the kitchen. Most people, however, loved DiSpirito’s mother who also worked at the restaurant, making her legendary meatballs.
While all was not well at Rocco’s,
DiSpirito scored a great success with his first cookbook, Flavor, that same year. It earned positive reviews and received a James Beard Award in 2004. For his second cookbook, Rocco’s Italian-American (2004), DiSpirito worked with his mother to record the story of her family’s journey to the United States from Italy as well as share numerous recipes reflecting the family’s southern Italian heritage.
In 2004, The Restaurant returned for a second season. The show focused on the growing conflict between DiSpirito and his financial backer Chodorow. By this time, Rocco’s was losing money, and Chodorow began seeking ways to improve the restaurant’s day-to-day operations. Chodorow and DiSpirito could not come to terms on how to best handle the situation. In the final episode, the two were engaged in a standoff over the future of the restaurant. Rocco’s closed a few months after the show ended.
Off-screen, Chodorow and DiSpirito were involved in a legal battle over Rocco’s as well. The two sued and countersued each other’s companies over the terms of their contract for the restaurant in 2004. Eventually, the clash between the two subsided and the case was settled quietly in early 2005, according to the New York State Unified Court System Website.
While he may have left the restaurant business, DiSpirito has remained a popular celebrity chef. He hosted a radio program on a New York radio station from 2004 to 2005 and has written several more successful cookbooks, including his most recent effort, Rocco Gets Real (2008). This is also the title of DiSpirito’s new television venture on the A&E Television Network.
In Rocco Gets Real, DiSpirito helps individuals kick up their culinary game to create dishes for important real-life events, such as a celebratory meal, a family reunion or a Sunday dinner.
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