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Guy Fieri (right) is pictured with the Kalligher family on a visit to the family’s Gannucci’s Italian Market in West Duluth. From left are Mandy (mother), Gav, Josh, Bill (father) and Sylvia and Sophia (bottom).

When cable TV stops by a restaurant, expect more eaters

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Bill Kalligher will be a reluctant cable television star when a segment airs on the Food Channel about his Gannucci’s Italian Market. Guy Fieri was at the family restaurant Monday for his show, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”

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“I turned them down a few times,” Kalligher said. He figured it would be too much of a hassle. He finally gave in with the knowledge that any appearance on the show probably would boost the amount of customers coming into his West Duluth eatery.

“It’s a bump,” he said he was told by Fieri. “It’s like winning the lottery, Bill.”

“I’ve really wanted to hire more people,” Kalligher said, and the exposure will allow that.

It will be a likely story at other restaurants Fieri has visited around the Twin Ports this week, including Pak’s Green Corner, Shorty’s Pizza & Smoked Meat in Superior and Kounty Quarthouse in South Range.

Tom Hanson, whose Duluth Grill was featured on the network show after filming in 2010, knows all about that volume increase. His restaurant was among a handful of others that saw  a dramatic increase in customers after the segments aired in late 2010 and into 2011.

“It’s a curse and a blessing,” Hanson said. He sort of laughed after the filming, taking it all in whimsically. Then came all the people.

He said any efforts to manage growth at his business ended when Food Network watchers began flocking to the restaurant.

“People like us before they come here,” he said. “How much more could you ask for?”

Kalligher said his restaurant got notice from producers about three months ago after several inquiries. They’ve been getting ready for the visit for three weeks, he said.

He said producers from the Food Network told him they liked the Duluth area, and his restaurant was getting great online reviews.

“They all but begged me,” he said.

Fieri might have something to do with that. He likes his Italian, and Gannucci’s didn’t disappoint, Kalligher said.

The crew showed up at 8 a.m. and didn’t leave until 6 p.m. Fieri was there at noon with his convertible and stayed for about four hours.

“It was fun,” Kalligher said. “He loved the food. He kept grabbing at my porketta.”

Kalligher said a producer told him that Fieri rarely stays at a restaurant as long as he did at Gannucci’s.

“He liked that we run this as a family and make all of our own food,” he said. “Those guys flipped on my pizza.”

Like others who have been visited by film crews, Fieri’s people were extremely nice and genuinely interested, Kalligher said. Fieri offered business tips in between gobbling lasagna and pizza, something he appreciated in light of Fieri’s success in the business.

“That Guy Fieri is a hell of a nice guy,” Kalligher said. “He knows his (stuff).”

Hanson compared the visit to his catering business in that you show up at a restaurant for a “special, one-time event” for the owners and staff. “They make it a fun experience,” he said.

Jennifer Young from Cookie Temptations on Woodland Avenue was anything but reluctant Tuesday. She heard Fieri was going to the Kounty Quarthouse and boxed up some cookies for him and the crew.

“I’m always on my toes,” she said of her smooth business promotion. She said she watches the show “all the time” and couldn’t pass on a chance to meet Fieri.

He gladly accepted the cookies and posed for a picture with Young, she said. She didn’t get to see any reaction to her cookies as they remained in the box.

Beth Cherny, owner of the Kounty Quarthouse, got confirmation Fieri would be filming at her bar about a month ago.

“I thought, ‘This is exactly what they do, a dive bar with fantastic food,’ ” she said. “That’s the show.”

Filming began Tuesday morning with Fieri on the set.

“It was awesome to meet him,” Cherny said. “I watch the show all the time. … I almost had a heart attack when he got out of that truck.”

Fieri picked two of the items off the Quarthouse menu to focus on — the chipotle brisket sandwich and the crispy pork belly.

“He loved that one,” Cherny said. “He had it all over his face.”

In addition to pictures and selfies snapped during filming, like at Gannucci’s and the other spots, a stencil of Fieri and his name now adorn the bar wall.

While the restaurants are closed to the public during shootings, owners and the show bring in special guests. Thunderbird pilots, who would later fly over the baseball All-Star Game in Minneapolis, were at the Quarthouse along with Douglas County Sheriff Tom Dalbec.

Food shooting will continue at Quarthouse through today, but Fieri won’t be present.

Kalligher said he was exhausted by the time the crew left Gannucci’s on Monday after 10 hours of shooting.

“I told everyone ‘I’m out of here.’ I had to go unwind.”

Pak Williams from Pak’s Green Corner felt the same way Monday night.

“Fieri has such good character, and he is so full of life,” Williams said. “Today’s event went really well, I was impressed. Now I’m exhausted.”

The residual effects of the taping are to come.

“You have to be on your game,” Hanson, from the Duluth Grill, said of the influx in business.

There’s another long-term effect the Food Network and Fieri’s show has had, Hanson said.

“I think the Food Network made the restaurant business cool,” he said.

When he started out, people would shrug and ask him what he really wanted to do with his life after dabbling in restaurants, he said. It wasn’t taken seriously as a viable profession, Hanson said.

“Now, it’s this eventful, hip thing.”

Maria Lockwood of the Superior Telegram and Alysee Shelton of the News Tribune contributed to this report.

 Where’s Guy? Guy Fieri’s whirlwind tour of the Twin Ports has kept local restaurateurs busy this week as he shoots segments for the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Fieri last stopped by the area in spring 2010, sampling food and filming at Duluth Grill, At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Cafe, Northern Waters Smokehaus, Anchor Bar in Superior, and Gordy’s Hi-Hat in Cloquet – along with other impromptu stops.

Monday stops

Gannucci’s Italian Market, West Duluth

Pak’s Green Corner, West Duluth

Shorty’s Pizza & Smoked Meat, Superior

Tuesday stops

Kounty Quarthouse, South Range

The crew was tight-lipped about any more stops, though Fieri and company often hang out for several days when they are on location. If you see him, or hear about a stop, let the News Tribune know at features@duluthnews.com.

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