Ziad Hamoudeh sells up to 250 slices of his crispy pizza every day. So his wedges with cheese, pepperoni, or home-made mashed potatoes can sit on the counter beneath his covered display case for up to an hour at room temperature.
He found out that’s a no-no under the health code.
Pizzerias can’t do that without formal written permission from the health department to let time, room temperature and the honor system be their guide.
On a recent visit to Hamoudeh’s Westville Pizza & Mediterranean Cuisine, health inspector Ros Hamilton found some of his slices of veggie ricotta pizza “out of temperature.” She deducted enough points so that the pizzeria in the heart of Westville Village scored a 78 out of a minimum 80 needed to pass in the latest round of city health inspections.
It was the only eatery of 19 that didn’t pass the latest round of city health inspections.
City sanitarians inspect all of New Haven’s restaurants, groceries, bars, and other food-serving establishments between one and four times a year. Establishments that score less than 80 usually have two weeks to make the recommended corrections. The health department can also close a restaurant regardless of its score if the sanitarians suspect an immediate danger to public health. (Scroll down in this story for specific results from the latest inspections.)
Since receiving his 78, Hamoudeh has submitted his “application to use time only as a public health control for potentially hazardous food” to the health department. He expected to have other problems corrected soon.
The rule that Hamoudeh unwittingly broke: After foods are cooked, the “holding” temperature must remain at 45 degrees or less for cold dishes and 140 degrees for hot dishes. This rule applies to all foods and is not pizza-specific.
City Environmental Health Director Paul Kowalski said establishments maintain the temperatures through various means like heat lamps, sterno, and steam tables.
An owner of a high-volume outlet like a pizzeria can apply for what is in effect a waiver and a promise.
Kowalski said he didn’t know how many eateries have the formal permission. He also conceded, “It’s the honor system. Everything is the honor system. We’re only there [doing the inspections] twice a year.”
“Certain products that aren’t going to be hazards can be left out [at room temperature and preferably covered] and if they’re going to be thrown out [if not sold] in two, or three hours tops.”
Hamoudeh beats that toss-out time by half, he said.
Decline Of The Slice Resisted
After emigrating here from Syria via France, Hamoudeh learned his craft working at Italian delis in Branford. He said that if doesn’t sell his slices within an hour or hour and quarter, he tosses them, and cooks another pie fresh and hot.
In October Hamoudeh closed down for a month and completely renovated his 18-year old establishment adding Mediterranean cuisine, which is flying out the door,along with the pizza.
Our City of Apizza might be seeing the decline of the individual slice for the trendier “pesonal pie.” But you wouldn’t know it at Westville Pizza.
Hamoudeh said he cooks five or six large pies around lunch time to get started and a similar number after the Westville bars let out. All told, he estimates he prepares 30 large-size pies of eight slices each, or 250 slices, over the course of a 15-hour working day.
Hamoudeh simply wasn’t aware of the health code requirement. He has no problem complying, he said.
Of the 19 restaurants inspected between Dec. 10 and Dec. 18, 18 passed. The one that did not was ordered to make required changes within two weeks. The following received passing grades:
12/10/2012: Hopkins School, 986 Forest Rd., Score: 93;
12/11/2012: Da Legna, 858 state St., Score: 95; Manhattan’s Bar & Grill, 448 Forbes Ave., Score: 84; RJ Luncheonette, 442 Forbes Ave., Score: 93;Shell Food Mart, 1183 Townsend Ave, Score: 93;
12/13/2012: Thaim Family Cafe, Bass Library, Score: 91; Sam’s Food Store, 285 Whalley Ave., Score: 86; Papa John’s Pizza, 125 Whalley Ave., Score: 83;
12/14/2012: SCSU Connecticut Hall, 501 Crescent St., Score: 85; Kentucky Fried Chicken, 311 Whalley Ave., Score: 94; Boat House Cafe, 307 Front St., Score: 90;
12/17/2012: Dollar Tree #1321, 126 Amity Rd., Score: 88; Tobacco Land, 164 Amity Rd., Score: 90; Kitchen Zinc, 966 Chapel St., Score: 97; Amity Brick Oven Pizza, 144 Amity Rd., Score: 89; China King 168 Inc., 942 Chapel St., Score: 80; The Anchor Restaurantt, 272 College St., Score: 81; Zinc, 966 Chapel St., Score: 93
The One Needing Improvement
Westville Pizza & Mediterranean Cuisine
883 Whalley Ave.
Due: 2 Weeks
• Cucumber sauce in reach in - 50 degrees
• Veggie, ricotta pizza - 67 degrees
• Cheese pizza - 75 degrees
• Wood pallets holding pizza slices not sealed
• Shredded rubber gasket on tall kitchen reach in
• Foil-wrapped pipes behind stove
• Paper towel dispenser empty or jammed
• Can opener not clean
• Broom stored on floor
• Kitchen door open - no screen
• Plastic cups used as scoop
• Cups submerged in food bin
• Missing probe thermometer