Saturday, March 03, 2007

RISOTTERIA: VICTIM OF DOH WITCH-HUNT?

Please note: Risotteria reopened on March 14, 2007

What a comedown to return to my blogging nodule after the fun-filled Gluten-Free Cooking Spree and find New York Press and Gothamist both reporting that Risotteria has been shuttered as part of a Department of Health crackdown in the aftermath of the rat scandal at the nearby KFC-Taco Bell.

Last year GFNYC noted that Risotteria had scored a 27 in its June 13, 2005 inspection, narrowly missing a failing grade of 28. (In its previous inspection, dated April 5, 2004, Risotteria scored an impressive 9.) As of today, the DOH website indicates that Risotteria got an improved score--18--in its most recent inspection, on June 16, 2006. The violations:
1. Lighting inadequate. Fixture not shielded.

2. Sanitized equipment or utensil, including in-use food dispensing utensil, improperly used or stored.

3. Evidence of flying insects or live flying insects present in facility's food and/or non-food areas.
Nothing in this rating from last year would have resulted in a closing. However, doubts have recently been raised regarding the reliability of DOH scoring. Also, there may be an unusual problem in the West Village that goes beyond Risotteria and the KFC-Taco Bell, as it seems that the venerable John's Pizzeria (which scored a 6 due to mice in its last inspection) has also been closed by the DOH.

Risotteria's management is reportedly hoping to recover from this episode and reopen soon. I hope to see the restaurant come back--better than ever. Naturally, I hope that the DOH will get its own act together and work with restaurants to help them serve food safely. In the meantime, I wish the Risotteria staff well.

UPDATE MARCH 4, 2007 This amNewYork article by Justin Rocket Silverman deals primarily with the closing of John's Pizzeria, but the item ends by quoting a sign in Risotteria's window stating "we have fallen victim to the health department's zeal to cover their tracks for past sins and will have to be closed...temporarily."

UPDATE MARCH 8, 2007 One week after the inspection date, Risotteria's March 1, 2007 inspection results are now online here along with a statement that "The Notice of Violation issued as a result of this inspection is awaiting a hearing decision." The score is an 82 (for what it's worth, John's Pizzeria got an even higher 90) resulting from the following violations:
1. Non-food contact surface improperly constructed. Unacceptable material used. Non-food contact surface or equipment improperly maintained.

2. Lighting inadequate. Fixture not shielded.

3. Facility not vermin proof. Harborage or conditions conducive to vermin exist.

4. Food contact surface not properly washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred.

5. Sufficient refrigerated or hot holding equipment not provided to meet proper time and temperature requirements for potentially hazardous foods.

6. Hand washing facility not provided in or near food preparation area and toilet room. Hot and cold running water at adequate pressure not provided at facility. Soap and an acceptable hand-drying device not provided.

7. Other live animal present in facility's food and/or non-food areas.

8. Evidence of flying insects or live flying insects present in facility's food and/or non-food areas.

9. Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility's food and/or non-food areas.

10. Appropriately scaled metal stem-type thermometer not provided or used to evaluate temperatures of potentially hazardous foods during cooking, cooling, reheating and holding.

11. Cold food held above 41°F (smoked fish above 38°F) except during necessary preparation.
An interesting angle on Risotteria's situation has to do with its participation in the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP). According to this government report, gluten from wheat, barley, and rye is toxic for an estimated 1% of the population, which makes it a serious health concern as far as I'm concerned. Yet I'm not aware of any Department of Health policy addressing the fact that virtually every restaurant in New York City offers food containing gluten but doesn't inform patrons of any potential danger. Risotteria, as a GFRAP participant, is actually one of very few restaurants that makes a voluntary effort to offer and clearly identify many gluten-free dishes even though doing so apparently means nothing to the Department of Health.

UPDATE MARCH 8, 2007 Here are two signs that were in Risotteria's windows yesterday.





































And here's a sign that was up at Joe's Pizzeria.








UPDATE MARCH 12, 2007 I'm told that Risotteria will officially re-open on Thursday!


UPDATE MARCH 15, 2007 I'm now told that Risotteria re-opened on Wednesday, March 14, 2007.



Photos: David Marc Fischer

5 comments:

Rob said...

I must admit the place is cramped and the building old, but the food is great. Keep us posted when they re-open, so my wife and I can show our support.

Anonymous said...

thank you..we will reopen this week..Joseph Pace/owner

ellen said...

Thank goodness they are re-opening. I NEED Risotteria in my life! It's not cramped - it is cozy!

Anonymous said...

Today is Th 3/8, I just called and was told they would be open for business on SATURDAY ! Yeah! I need my breadcrumbs!

David Marc Fischer said...

Today is Monday, March 12, 2007--As noted above, I've been told that Risotteria will be back in action on Thursday.