Dicey Dining: Eateries hit with violations

BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) - In November, News 4 Investigates found out in a hurry that Western New Yorkers had a voracious appetite for restaurant inspection information.

At that time, the only way to see Erie County restaurant reports online was by using the Dicey Dining Interactive Guide at WIVB.com.  The database has just been updated with the latest reports from Erie, Niagara and all other counties in WNY.

It wasn’t long after our Dicey Dining reports aired that Erie County first started posting the information on its own web site.

It’s a new year, and News 4 Investigates analyzed Erie County’s inspections database to do an update.

The inspection information details places with rodent problems, and servers handling ready-to-eat food with their bare hands.

News 4 Investigates examined the active Erie County food establishments with 12 or more health code violations since the beginning of 2014.

Colter Bay Grill

Colter Bay Grill on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo had a complaint in December, according to Erie County Health Department records.

Inspectors found a total of 15 violations; two of them critical.  For example, 2 pounds of partially cooked french fries were discarded by the cook because they were held in a container at room temperature, near the fryer, at 80 degrees.

Among the non critical violations, inspectors noted what appeared to be rodent droppings in various areas of the basement.

A re-inspection in January resulted in 13 non-critical violations.  The restaurant corrected 7 violations stemming from the December complaint but rodent droppings in various areas of the basement was again cited.

News 4 Investigates tried contacting Colter Bay repeatedly for a comment. We stopped by in person, and left three phone messages. But so far there has been no response.

A meeting between the Erie County and the restaurant was held on January 24, according to Health Department records.

The operator agreed to submit a cleaning schedule for review and approval, and hire an exterminator to deal with the rodent problem.

Just recently Colter Bay was re-inspected, and made big strides complying with the health code.

Inspectors found no critical violations and only 1 non-critical regarding ongoing construction in the kitchen area.

Acqua

At Acqua, along the Niagara River in Buffalo Chef Ed Dolski says the restaurant is trying to get a handle on last month’s health department inspection.  Inspectors cited the restaurant with 12 non-critical violations.  Among the violations were rodent droppings noted at waitress station, main bar and “pop” room.

“We’ve been working with them,” said Dolski.

“We’re doing everything we can possibly with Buffalo Exterminators to resolve the problem,  and they have. They’ve limited it,” said Acqua owner Bill Koessler.

But the rodent issue has come up in previous inspection reports.

Mark Kowalski of the Erie County Health Department says while Acqua has been making progress, “They need to gain control of it and eliminate the infestation,” said Kowalski. “They [rodents] can spoil the food by their presence as well as contaminate surfaces that they are running over.”

The inspection report also notes several other non-critical issues that need attention.

Chef Dolski says they’re being addressed while the restaurant, for the most part, remains closed during the winter season.

“It’s a tile on the floor that needs to be replaced. It’s a sink that’s leaking. It’s a ceiling tile that’s stained.  It’s a vent that has a small speck of dirt on it. They’re very small things. I mean they’re things that are important that need to be done,” said Dolski.

Acqua management provided a document listing violations they have corrected and others with work in progress.  Read that document here (PDF)

According to the Erie County Health Department, they’re things that matter.  “The structure can contribute to a contamination, to a lesser extent than when say a worker’s bare hand contacts food ready to eat. But that can be a contributing factor,” explained Kowalski.

“It’s an older facility. A lot of the history was not my understanding or doing when I bought it,” said Koessler.

“Maintenance was deferred. Different things weren’t taken care of, and I’m the one that’s having to do that. And we’re doing it,” Koessler added.

Trattoria Aroma

Inspectors acted on a complaint last month at Trattoria Aroma on Main Street in Williamsville, according to Health Department records.  The establishment was cited for a total of 24 violations including two that were critical.

“That’s significant,” said Erie County Health Department’s Kowlaski.

Inspectors observed a server at the bar handling ready-to-eat lemon wedges with bare hands. And a cook touching and garnishing ready-to-eat pizza from the oven with bare hands.

“Transmission of disease through the food is often attributed to a bare hand contact. This is an item the department consistently assesses fines for.”

Separate from the critical violations, 22 non-critical violations were also noted by inspectors.

Violations such as walls soiled around equipment and a container of food on the floor of a walk-in cooler were cited in the report.

“None of these observances indicate a facility that would breed food borne germs,” said Trattoria Aroma owner David Cosentino.

“We are, and have always been, extremely diligent in the cleanliness of our operations,” Cosentino added.

In fact, a re-inspection completed last week shows that the restaurant made significant improvements.  Inspectors noted 13 non-critical violations, about half of what it was in January.

“We, at all our locations, are always striving to be the best we can in all categories of food service,” Cosentino said. “This includes quality of our food, service and of course, cleanliness.”

Cosentino emailed News 4 Investigates’ Luke Moretti to explain in more details what the inspections found and how the restaurant owner is responding.  Read the email here (PDF)

Fuji Grill III

An inspection of Fuji Grill III on North Buffalo Street in Orchard Park last month resulted in 12 violations including one critical.

Inspectors observed a food worker not wearing a hair restraint, no thermometers in front counter coolers and microwave food soiled on interior.

Despite News 4 Investigates visiting the restaurant in person, sending an email, and contacting the facility by phone there’s been no response from restaurant management or owners.

Since our report first aired the restaurant was reinspected by the Erie County Health Department.  A February 14 inspection report indicates that Fuji Grill III was given a clean slate except for 1 non-critical violation for “utensils being washed at hand wash sink.”

In an email to News 4,  Alex Lin, chef and owner,  states that the restaurant “addressed all the violations.” He says the violations had “nothing to do” with the restaurant’s food quality or service.

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