Six South Florida restaurants cited by inspectors

Critical violations of state sanitation and safety laws recently observed by inspectors at six South Florida restaurants prompted the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation to cite the owners and briefly suspend operations, reports show.

Ernie’s Italian Chophouse, 3150 N. Federal Highway, Lighthouse Point was briefly closed Jan. 29 after an inspector observed an ice scoop on top of a soiled ice machine that had a black/green mold-like substance inside; an employee was eating at the cook line; an employee’s hair was not restrained while preparing food; the can opener had encrusted material on it; a freezer, cooler and bar sink were soiled with accumulated food residue; cooler gaskets were soiled; hot water was not provided or was shut off at an employee hand washing sink; a dead roach was in a prep area; 81 moist and dry rodent droppings were found on the premises, including in a lid storage container; 1 live roach was observed; there was a hole in a wall near the dishwashing area and lights at the walk-in cooler were lacking proper shields, coatings or covers.

After two visits from a pest control company and no evidence of vermin, an inspector allowed the restaurant to reopen on Jan. 30. Owner Ernie Patti said, "We don't know if the problem existed from before we owned the restaurant. Food temperatures were perfect. It was something he found in the back of a corner. We complied right away, took full responsibilty and we were open immediately."

Cafeteria La Progresena, 536 W. Sample Rd., Pompano Beach was briefly closed Jan. 31 after an inspector observed a banana with gnaw marks and issued a stop sale order; a working container of salt was removed from the original container and not identified by its common name; raw beef was being stored over veggies in a refrigerator; a flour bag was uncovered in dry storage; a utensil handle was not stored above top of salt in a container; an employee failed to wash hands before putting on gloves to work with food; a dishwasher handled soiled equipment or utensils and then prepared food and handled clean equipment without washing hands; equipment and utensils were not sanitized after washing and rinsing; chlorine sanitizer was not at proper minimum strength; food contact surfaces were not sanitized after cleaning and before use; aluminum foil containers were not properly inverted on shelves in the dishwashing area; there was a leaky sink faucet; a covered waste receptacle was not provided in the women’s restroom; 64 rodent droppings, fresh and dry, were found on the premises; there was a hole in the ceiling; a purse was stored with food in a prep storage area cabinet and there was no proof that required employee training was provided.


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After a pest control company visited and there was no evidence of vermin, the business was allowed to reopen Feb. 1.  An owner could not be reached for comment.

Nyema Restaurant & Lounge, Miami International Airport taxi stop, 2122 NW 21st St., Miami was briefly closed Jan. 28 after an inspector observed an employee wash hands in an unapproved sink; a cutting board was no longer usable; non-food grade plastic to go bags were used to store food; sanitizing solution was not maintained; debris was accumulated in and on two sinks and on a food contact surface; 15 live roaches were found in a prep area at a front counter and two live roaches were in the kitchen; there was an accumulation of dead or trapped roaches in a control device in a preparation area; grease was accumulated under cooking equipment; there was a buildup of soil or debris on the floor along walls, baseboards, cabinets and/or equipment and there was a pesticide emitting strip in a food prep area.

The business was approved to reopen on Jan. 29. Owner Willie Robinson said, “We are fully in compliance and we are going to stay that way. We are terribly sorry that it happened and we will to make sure it never happens again.”

Chicken Corner, 3191 W. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale was briefly closed Jan. 29 after an inspector observed a bowl or other container without a handle was used to dispense rice from a bin; no chlorine chemical test kit was provided; food contact surfaces in stainless steel pans on a dish storage rack were encrusted with grease and/or soil deposits; debris was built up in an ice chute; soil residue was built up along walls in the food prep and rear entrance areas; clean utensils were stored on a rusty shelving rack and equipment and utensils were not properly air dried but were “wet nesting” in a dish storage rack.

Also, a cooling unit drained directly to the floor of the walk-in cooler where there was standing water, drain covers were missing, there were 28 fresh rodent droppings and a live mouse inside; towels or a drying device were not provided at a front counter sink; a storage area was not maintained in a clean and organized fashion near rear exit doors and there were objectionable odors in the back storage and food prep areas.

The restaurant was allowed to reopen Jan. 31. The owner declined to comment.

Soi Chinese Kitchen, 645 NW 20th St., Miami was briefly closed Jan. 31 after an inspector observed fresh garlic in oil/margarine/butter that was held at greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit; there was no conspicuously located, ambient thermometer in a cooler; potentially hazardous food was thawed at room temperature; a case/container/bag of food was stored on the floor; tongs were used on an oven door handle; the certified food manager or person in charge lacked knowledge of foodborne illnesses and symptoms that would prevent an employee from working; a bowl without a handle was used to dispense food; equipment and utensils were not washed, rinsed or sanitized in the proper order; food contact surfaces were not sanitized after cleaning and before use; cooler gaskets were soiled; a sink handle was in disrepair and water was leaking from a sink; a vacuum breaker was missing at a hose bibb; a hand washing sink was being used to thaw meat; an employee hand washing sign was not posted and soap was not provided at a restroom sink; there were 50 dead roaches and 15 live roaches in the food prep, dry storage and kitchen areas; more than 50 roach droppings were present and proof of required employee training was not available for some workers.

After a weekend of cleaning up and a visit from an exterminator there was no sign of vermin and the restaurant was allowed to reopen Feb. 3. UPDATE:  Manager Crystal Lane said Wednesday, "All state compliance issues have been addressed, and we welcome all customers into our kitchen for their own inspections."

Las Brisas Market & Cafeteria, 2055 NW 22nd Ave., Miami was briefly closed Jan. 28 after an inspector observed a live roach inside a large container of flour and a stop sale order was issued. Ready to eat, potentially hazardous food was prepared on site, held more than 24 hours and not properly date marked; working containers of food were removed from original packaging and not identified by common name; a flour container was not covered; a certified food manager or person in charged lacked knowledge of foodborne illnesses and symptoms that would prevent an employee from working; a wet wiping cloth was not stored in sanitizing solution between uses; clean glassware, dinnerware and pots were not stored inverted or in a protected manner; single service items were reused; four dead roaches were in a storage room; 15 more live roaches were on the premises, including in the kitchen and under an inverted pot, and roach excrement and/or droppings were present on kitchen and storage room walls. The restaurant reopened Jan. 29. The operator declined to comment.

The Crime & Safety blog reports on inspections of South Florida dining spots as the state pursues its goal to visit Florida’s 47,800 licensed restaurants.

If you're going out to eat, search our restaurant databases before you leave home.

The state says it's not the number of violations that will cause a restaurant to be temporarily shut down, but rather the nature of what an inspector finds that merits closing a business.

After a restaurant is shuttered, an inspector typically visits again within 24 hours and continues to visit until violations are resolved and the business can reopen. Repeat critical violations can lead to fines in a future administrative complaint levied by the state.

If a bad dining experience makes you feel ill, it’s easy to complain to the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation by calling 850-487-1395 or by filing a report online at MyFloridaLicense.com.  But beware: that’s not the place for personal vendettas. False reports can lead to misdemeanor charges.

And if you haven’t checked out a bistro’s inspection history online before making a reservation, state law requires restaurants to provide customers with a copy.