If you ask Dave Cates why he thinks his restaurant will be featured in a Dec. 18 episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” he’ll tell you he doesn’t really know why.
The bacon cheeseburger pizza and chicken and farfalle with vodka sauce — known in the Ocean City kitchen as vodka chicken — are good, sure, said Piccini’ owner Cates. But he admits it was still a shock when researchers with the Food Network show called the restaurant.
“I didn’t think we were a good fit for them. They usually have pretty unique places with pretty extraordinary things,” he said. “We have a very expansive menu, but there’s nothing truly unique or out there in our cooking process.”
Desipte those thoughts, Cates and the Piccini crew hosted the Triple-D crew, including host Guy Fieri, to tape for the popular restaurant-centric show. An episode titled, “East-West Flavorfest” featuring Piccini will air at 10 p.m. on Dec. 18, again bringing “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” to focus to South Jersey.
Cates said he and his chef, Mike Falzone, talked to researchers or producers with the show before camera crews and Fieri himself came to the restaurant. Crews were at the restaurant on the Monday and Tuesday after the annual Fall Block Party in Ocean City.
Fieri was present for Tuesday’s taping, Cates said, for about five hours, interacting with customers and employees.
“He’s camera ready,” Cates said.
Fieri even gave opinions on improvements that could be made on the bacon cheeseburger pizza. Cates said they’ve incorporated those changes — confettied red onions and pickles, as well as shredding American cheese in with the standard Colby Jack — since taping.
Cates said he hopes the December episode will help boost business in a usually-slow off-season. Regular customers are already excited about the upcoming show, Cates said.
But he’s also excited to show off what he believes is the most unique aspect about Piccini: The people with whom he works.
“Billy (Castiglioni, lead pizza chef) was my first hire 21 years ago, (Falzone)‘s been with me 18 years, my second pizza man has been here 20 years,” said Cates, who added that Piccini just wrapped up its 21st summer season. “The recognition for these guys, who’ve worked tirelessly for 20 years, it’s neat to see them get their recognition.”
“Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” showed off several South Jersey restaurants about a year ago.
It’s expected that future premiere episodes of the show will also feature Atlantic City’s Vagabond Kitchen & Tap House, and Sam’s Rialto Grill in Pleasantville, as social media posts show Fieri and crews at each of those South Jersey spots. Food Network has yet to reveal those air dates.