In 2009, Rob Petrone was a news reporter for the then-fledgling FiOS1, Verizon’s local news channel. His affable personality, on and off screen, quickly landed Petrone in the features department. Then he had an idea for a two-minute segment on local restaurants. He pitched it, got a thumbs-up and Reservations with Rob took off. It was met with overwhelming acclaim, which spawned a 30-minute program. In late February of 2011, Restaurant Hunter, hosted by Petrone, launched.
Now in his fifth season, Petrone has more than 170 original episodes, two Emmys (one earned pre-RH) and innumerable tasty meals under his belt. Petrone’s shows are casual and laid back. “I want it to feel honest, real and organic, with nothing scripted—just chat naturally over a good meal,” he says. Most shows feature Petrone and a guest breaking bread and conversing at some of our tastiest local eateries. Guests on Restaurant Hunter have included Susan Lucci, Ed Mangano, Marty Lyons, Len Berman and yours truly.
Petrone’s credo is quite similar to ours at Edible, albeit in a different medium: the narration of a culinary backstory. “We are telling really interesting stories that happen to be about food. I would rather go to a restaurant that has been around for 50 or 60 years, that has an amazing story, than someplace that has been open three months, with millions of dollars in back money, and is shiny and pretty but doesn’t have a soul,” he says. “This is a hospitality business, and if we are doing our homework and going to the right kind of restaurants, we are going to hang out with really nice people that really want to make you feel like you are in their home and in their kitchens. I think viewers really get a feel for that.” Viewers are not the only ones nourished by Petrone’s work. Restaurant owners have reported a 50 percent increase in business after an episode airs. “It feels great to know that we have had that kind of affect on a small business,” says Petrone. Rock on, Restaurant Hunter!