Screen Time: Tucson Restaurants Continue Experiencing the ‘Fieri Bump’

click to enlarge Screen Time: Tucson Restaurants Continue Experiencing the ‘Fieri Bump’
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Inca’s Peruvian Cuisine’s Fatima Campos and Guy Fieri.

I can always tell when the food network rebroadcasts a particular episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives when texts from my friends across the country start blowing up my phone.

In early 2018, against the backdrop of bright lights, cameras, and other production gadgetry that transformed Inca’s Peruvian Cuisine into a makeshift sound - stage, the show’s producers selected my wife and I to share our thoughts about the dinner we were enjoying with host Guy Fieri. The episode aired several months later, commencing a series of “was that you?” inquiries that I get to this day whenever that old episode slides into prime time.

Curious to know if the restaurant experiences a boom in business tied to the re-runs, years after the episode first aired, I turned to proprietor Fatima Campos for her insights.

“We always know when that show airs because customers come in the next day and tell their servers,” said Campos, owner of Inca’s Peruvian Cuisine, 6878 E. Sunrise Drive. “We also see fans of the program across the nation come in who are on a Triple D Road Show and want to eat here,” she continued. “It was such an honor to be part of the show; it was a pivotal moment in our business.”

Though there are many fan favorites on her menu, Campos and her crew have gotten used to a higher-volume level of production that’s required to meet the demands of those who want to eat exactly what Fieri ate.

In that episode, Fieri enjoyed the Seco de Carne, Angus beef and canary beans braised in a Peruvian sauce, and the Lomo Saltado, Angus beef marinated in Peruvian spices with tomatoes, onions, and potatoes.

“Guy loved the beans with the Seco and that’s what my servers recommend,” concluded Campos. At Rocco’s Little Chicago, owner Rocco DiGrazia sees a similar boost whenever the network rebroadcasts the show when Fieri’s 1968 Camaro pulled into the pizzeria’s parking lot at 2707 E. Broadway Boulevard.

DiGrazia tells me that he typically gets a 10-20% bump in business whenever that episode airs.

“It’s been said that restaurants may see up to a 40% bump, but I can’t fit an additional 40% in my restaurant,” he said.

To maximize his ability to meet growing demand, DiGrazia has since installed a double-stack oven in his kitchen and will soon announce that Rocco’s will be open seven days a week.

He regularly rolls out big numbers of those dishes that Fieri took down on that show, including the Spicy Hot Sticks, his Award-Winning Chicken Wings, and the Deep-Dish Kitchen Sink Pizza with pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, and red onions.

Like Campos, DiGrazia also welcomes what he calls “Food Network tourists,” those loyalists who travel the country in search of Triple D destinations. As he observes, “They all come in with their spiked hair and Guy Fieri visors and want to eat what Guy ate.”

Though I don’t have much hair left to spike, I do have something new to add to my retirement list.

“I’d like to think that this episode is in permanent syndication,” said DiGrazia. “It’s a vastly popular show and definitely has legs.”

It’s nice to see these locally owned restaurants, and all the others which Fieri hit while he was in town, filling their dining rooms with each rebroadcast of these aging episodes. It’s also a reminder that I’d probably have a hard time finding a table at Inca’s the next time people ask if that was me they just saw, for three seconds, on national TV.
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