LONG BEACH - Eight months ago, Nino's Italian Restaurant, located in the heart of Bixby Knolls, was in desperate need of help.
Its decor, largely unchanged from its opening in 1958, was dark and outdated, and its menu resembled a small encyclopedia.
That was then.
Now, months after chef Gordon Ramsay and his "Kitchen Nightmares" team took over the restaurant for less than a week, you will find a clean, modern design with focus on the new sleek and simple menu. The "Kitchen Nightmares" episode will air Friday night at 8 p.m. on Fox.
Nino's has been called a Long Beach institution. Vince "Nino" Cristiano opened the business at 3853 Atlantic Ave. in July 1958, and now his family runs the business.
The Cristianos - the founder's wife, Inge; brothers Nino and Mike; and daughter Carina - are excited about finally seeing it.
"We haven't seen the episode and I think we are all very nervous about finally seeing it," said Carina Cristiano, who is the restaurant's operations manager. "Though we would love to watch it privately in the comfort of our homes, it was the community that made this possible, so we will watch with them here at the restaurant."
Nino's is sold out Friday night for a viewing party.
Cristiano said that being critiqued on the show was a "very intense" experience.
"When we first walked through the doors after the transformation, I was speechless," she said. "The cameras were on us and I swore I would not cry, but right in front of our eyes was our dream, and it had finally come true and that brought me to tears."
Fox's hit television show producers had heard about the dire situation at Nino's and decided it was a good candidate for the show, said Arthur Smith, executive producer. He said the crew had been to older restaurants, but never to a restaurant that has been in one family for 54 years, which he said "compelled us to come and help in every way we could."
"This restaurant is an American Dream," Smith said. "For 54 years, Nino's has been a staple, but unfortunately the family was falling out because the restaurant was falling apart. This episode was about bringing the family back together and keeping their American dream alive."
An outdated menu, decor and strife within the family all took their toll on the restaurant - and the economy didn't help either - and this will play out in front of a national audience Friday on Fox at 8 p.m.
"We don't consider it airing out our dirty laundry," Cristiano said. "If you have seen 'Kitchen Nightmares' before, you know that it gets worse before it gets better. In our case, we really believe we have met Chef Ramsay's goals and have moved forward focused on great food and great service."
British chef and television personality Ramsay, the star of "Kitchen Nightmares," told the Press-Telegram in July that Nino's Italian Restaurant endured a week of change that wasn't exactly easy to come by.
"Nino's was caught in a time warp, the restaurant was outdated and they were scared of change, petrified of change because they were clinging on to what little customers they had," Ramsay said. "Change is hard, but it is always refreshing. But after 54 years, they didn't take to change easily. However, they needed to, otherwise Nino's wouldn't have celebrated another year."
Cristiano said she is grateful for getting a second chance.
"All of my dreams came true with this transformation, everything I have ever dreamed of has come true. I am overly humbled about what has happened," Cristiano said. "It took a lot of courage to change, and it was very hard, but so worth it. We can't thank the community, Chef Ramsay and his team enough."