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Don’t flame Guy Fieri, local restaurateurs say

It’s being called one of the harshest reviews a New York Times restaurant critic has ever dished out. Depending on your opinion, Food Network star Guy Fieri had it coming, or Times critic Pete Wells went way too far in his takedown of Fieri’s new Times Square Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar.

And quite a few local restaurateurs have opinions on the drama, too, namely the ones Fieri’s show has visited. Fieri has visited more than a dozen restaurants in and around Boston while shooting “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”

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In his review Wednesday, Wells used a series of biting questions as a gimmick to express his disappointment. He cited problems he encountered in four visits, from “the ghostly nubs of unblackened, unspiced white meat” to an “insipid Rice-a-Roni variant” to toughened scraps of carrot “with the deadened, overcooked taste of school cafeteria vegetables.” And that’s besides the snide attack on Fieri’s signature spiky ’do.

“I’m very surprised to hear this. Maybe the critic’s just got something against him,” says Jim Iannuzzi, owner of Italian Express Pizzeria in East Boston, which Fieri visited in September along with Boston Mayor Tom Menino. “When we were filming on the Food Network, Guy was just great. He’s definitely a chef who knows his stuff. In the day he was here, I learned a lot from. I’m sure he wouldn’t be where he is if he didn’t know what he’s doing.”

Paul Malvone, owner of Boston Burger Company in Somerville, another spot Fieri visited, says of the review, “When I read it I was like, wow. It was tough. I’m not going to lie, I was like thank god it’s not me. They were going right down the line and ripping. I thought it was rather harsh, and I understand he’s a celebrity and it’s someone’s opinion, [but] it’s harsh and a little early to review someone like that.”

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Fieri visited the “Today” show Thursday to defend himself and called Wells’ review “ridiculous,” adding that the excessively negative feedback indicates “a different agenda.”

In his interview, Fieri, who owns 11 restaurants, questioned Wells’ motives in visiting “four times to a restaurant that’s been open two months – that’s tough times.”

Malvone agreed, saying, “When you first open a business, that’s difficult at first for anyone, even if you’re a celebrity chef. Sometimes you’ve gotta crawl before you can walk.”

And though Wells insinuated that Fieri’s “high-wattage passion for no-collar American food” is a sham, Iannuzzi disagrees. “The way that he is on TV is the way he was here, he was into it 100 percent, he’s the real deal.”

Malvone added that Fieri is a straight shooter, laughing, “He hasn’t gotten as far as he can because he has nice hair or a good personality. From working with him and being in the kitchen with him, he definitely knows what he’s doing.”

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