Michael Sparaga’s The Missing Ingredient: What is the Recipe for Success? is an exploration into what makes an everyday restaurant into an institution.
Sparaga aims to define this ‘missing ingredient’ by focusing on two Manhattan restaurants: Gino’s, an Upper East Side fixture; and Pescatore, a Midtown resto trying to survive a changing neighbourhood.
Gino’s is an institution with over half a century of history behind it. Known for its iconic zebra wallpaper, so memorable, it caught the eye of Woody Allen and Wes Anderson who featured it in their films. Gino’s unique décor seems to have inspired Charles Devigne, the owner of Pescatore, to find that ‘je ne se quoi’ to lift his restaurant to new heights.
The Missing Ingredient… contains some very interesting details about Gino’s history. Sparaga talks to its former chef, another co-owner of the restaurant, and a few regulars. Hearing from all who loved Gino’s makes us understand why it was so beloved, why it it became a dining institution, and why many were saddened by its closure. At times, however, the film feels like an homage to this institution rather than a comparison between the two restaurants and their respective status in New York City dining.
Devigne is sometimes shown to be trying too hard at re-inventing Pescatore into an icon that it isn’t just yet. When he decides to remodel the restaurant, and tries to ‘honour’ the Gino’s by using a very similar wallpaper design, many cannot accept this. Unfortunately, Devigne’s intention is misunderstood. He then decides to remodel Pescatore one more time. This last effort proves to be a decisive one for Devigne.
The Missing Ingredient: What is the Recipe for Success? is Director Sparaga’s first feature documentary. On the one hand, the premise is a good one. On the other hand, it focuses too much on Gino’s legacy that it clouds Devigne’s efforts to make his own restaurant another go-to place in NYC. Required viewing it is not, but for foodies, it will be of some interest.
The film will start its theatrical run at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on Friday, July 15.
- Release Date: 7/15/2016