As seen on TV: Bene Pizza undergoes renovation on ‘Restaurant Impossible’

Paddleboard 'Order Here' sign at the renovated Bene

NOTE: This establishment is CLOSED.

The opportunity to appear on a major cable television show was too good to pass up for Omaha’s Bene Pizza and Pasta restaurant. The northwest Omaha eatery appeared on the Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible” Wednesday.

The path to appearing on the show included some family health issues and a bit of a downturn in business following the 2008 recession. As a result, the restaurant needed a facelift and menu upgrade.

'Before' the Restaurant Impossible renovations

‘Before’ the Restaurant Impossible renovations

The show has a budget of $10,000 to “save” a restaurant from impending doom. The budget was used to renovate the 15-year-old restaurant with new flooring, tables, chairs, as well as fresh paint and interior redesign.

We actually had a personal involvement with the restaurant. Lisa was among the many volunteers working on the renovation. She helped with cleaning tables that had been painted and also helped roll silverware.

Shelly from the blog, Minette’s Maze, joined Lisa as a vounteer. Shelly helped assemble the record albums that hang from the ceiling.  You can catch a glimpse of her hanging them in the episode.

Record Mobile adds to the 'new' retro look at Bene

“I’m amazed how much got accomplished in such a short time,” Shelly said. “All the planning and people that made this happen still has me in awe! I met some new friends and boy did we have fun! The crew was awesome, and all so nice to us volunteers.

“I was so excited to jump in an get my hands dirty! The speech that Robert gave after we were done truly was moving. Help thy neighbor, and don’t forget to thank a solider. I wish more people thought that way.”

Bene was closed for two days in December for the renovation. It reopened with a special dinner opportunity. Along with a couple of blogger friends and relatives, Lisa and I participated in the dinner. The restaurant served an updated menu. The reopening came to a packed house.

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Since the show has aired, we can now share our thoughts. I told the owner I missed the retro look. It originally had a large projection screen TV from the 1990s. I was Ok removing that and replacing it with flat screen TVs. But, they had movie posters, album covers hanging on the wall.

'Before' renovations included more retro posters

‘Before’ renovations included more retro posters

With the renovation, most of that was gone. The restaurant has a sleek modern, clean look. But, it looks like any other Italian restaurant in a large city. I liked the wall decors with the renovation, but missed the retro look.

'After' renovations include a modern and clean look

‘After’ renovations include a modern and clean look

They had to fight to keep the arcade room. Anyone who has been to Bene knows about the retro arcade room. Pinball machines dominate the room. They include pinball machines featuring “Indiana Jones,” “The Simpsons,” and “Star Trek.” To be fair, they do have a “modern” one – “The Walking Dead.” There are other games in the arcade, but the pinball machines are the best!

Bene kept the arcade with many classic and current pinball games

I guess the show’s producers – including Marc Summers – encouraged removing the arcade and adding tables. Their thought was that it would increase dollars. But like the owner and I agreed, the games keep families there, which increase opportunities for more food and drink orders.

Arcade games at Bene

Prior to the renovation and taping of the show, which stars Chef Robert Irvine, we enjoyed a sample of the original-style pizza on a pizza tour with Omaha Culinary Tours. The pizza is cut in squares (a favorite style of mine). It was delicious.

Pizza cut in squares

One thing I like about the renovation is separating tables. The restaurant had a lot of long tables, so it was possible to have a stranger sitting next to you during your meal. I like people, but not that much. LOL. They do have tables they can put together for groups. They also added high top tables near the counter.

Tables are not all long tables anymore

Lisa and I had dinner at Bene recently. We wanted to try the pasta dishes. She had spaghetti, while I tried the lasagna. Wow! The servings are huge. They are definitely worth the price (not expensive).

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While we were there, I noticed the owners were displaying some of the movie posters. That made me happy.

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Bene was busy during our visit, which had to make the owners happy. Oh, they have also mixed their menu with old favorites and some new items from the show. It looks like going on “Restaurant Impossible” was a good move for Bene.
Bene was featured on Restaurant Impossible

For more information on Bene – and its retro arcade – check out its website at www.benepizzanandpasta.com.

For more on “Restaurant Impossible,” visit the Food Network’s website at www.foodnetwork.com/shows/restaurant-impossible.html.