“Save My Restaurant” by Irving Schwartz is a new, fast-paced novel that will be particularly enjoyable for readers who can feel witty dialogue leap off of the page as it does in the best of screenplays.
The novel’s plot as well as the continuous hijinks swirl around Angela Petrakis, a twenty-seven year-old divorcé who along with her brother owns a Greek restaurant in a New Jersey strip-mall. Imagine Gordon Ramsey’s “24 Hours In Hell” meets “You’ve Got Mail” as an extremely pro-active crew watch winsome Angela attempt to save her family’s Greek restaurant “Dreams of Crete” from imminent bankruptcy.
Similar to Netflix’s new series “Restaurants on the Edge,” the television show “Save My Restaurant” helps desperate restaurant owners re-envision their offerings to appeal to wider audiences. Angela’s restaurant is going bankrupt because their the star-chef – Angela’s older brother, Cosmos – lost his desire to cook when his wife succumbed to cancer.
Angela writes to the television program “Save My Restaurant,” which is show that “fixes” a different family-owned restaurant every week and the restaurant is soon invaded by a television crew. “Save My Restaurant’s” obnoxious host Phillipe L’Dior and his mercenary producer Gloria continuously torment and torture Angela – belittling her and her staff – in the attempt to create compelling Reality TV.
A horde of bizarre characters vying for camera time descend upon the Closter Shades Strip Mall only to be greeted by an array of similarly quirky local denizens. One of them is Vincent Carpelli, a putative accountant who is really a lieutenant in the local Mafia and intent on burning the strip-mall down for the insurance money; Vincent’s girlfriend is Candice, a New Jersey blonde with long nails who owns the candy store at the other end of the strip mall; then there is Daria, an attractive Korean-American who pretends to speak Chinese in order to work as a receptionist at the massage parlor (brothel) next to the restaurant; lastly there’s Sandhaya, a tough Indian woman who owns the cosplay (costume) store and her nephew Batal whose name means “hero” in Hindi and who desperately wants to live up to that name.
As chaos erupts and the restaurant appears to be completely doomed, Angela falls in love with one of the show’s producers, Henry, a recent hire from National Geographic who spent much of the last ten years off-the-grid in the Amazon, the Upper Congo and more remote locations. The unlikely pair hit it off and Angela suddenly finds herself in an unexpected romance. Now she must figure out how to keep both her new relationship and old restaurant alive at the same time as the television crew acts like a drunken circus wreaking havoc on both her business and her personal life.
“Save My Restaurant” has great and realistic characters, a wonderful setting, and is a quick and entertaining read.