This lunchtime crowd wasn’t fazed by hearing about a frozen fish found in a black garbage bag out back. Or a hand soap dispenser that had slipped off a wall. Or a slightly cracked sink in the men’s room.
This is a bar, after all. Their bar. And it’s plenty clean to them.
Loyal customers like Jeff Tirozzi not only pronounced these violations minor stuff, but remained undeterred in praising the Owl’s Nest Cafe on Tour Avenue in Westville Village among the “best places ever.”
A city health inspector was less impressed, giving the bar and restaurant a score of 77 on its most recent check-up. That score falls on the wrong side of the pass/fail list.
The restaurant was one of three that failed in inspections conducted by city sanitarians between Sept. 11 and Sept. 17. Forty-four made the grade. Scroll down further in this article to see the detailed results.
City sanitarians inspect all of New Haven’s restaurants, groceries, bars, and any establishment that serves food 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.
Of those 44 inspected recently, approximately half a dozen are bars. The Independent was curious to know whether eaters at a bar would have expectations or standards somewhat lower than they might if they were dining at a four-star restaurant.
That turned out to be not the case, at least at the Owl’s Nest. The place seemed clean and sparkling. There was already a gleam on the white linoleum tiles, and a high speed buffer in use at lunch hour Thursday.
“He [owner Jose Cunha] always keeps it spotless. I have never had an issue,” said Tirozzi, an insurance agent who lives nearby and comes to the the Owl’s Nest for lunch at least a couple of times a week.
On Thursday he was perched on a stool beneath the wood and copper hood over the bar. He was meditatively sipping a small beer out of a plastic cup. He had not yet ordered lunch, but said Cunha “makes excellent wings.”
A “Terrorist” Perspective
A man sitting next to him nodded in agreement. He said he did not want to be photographed or identified except to say he was a “well known terrorist” who, like Tirozzi, has been coming to the Owl’s Nest with regularity for a decade. “This is the best place I’ve ever been to.”
The gentleman in question, a clean-shaven fellow somewhere between youth and middle age, also said his standards or expectations are identical when he comes into the Owl’s Nest to when he goes into a fine-dining restaurant. Tirozzi agreed with that. They both expect bathrooms to be clean and the equipment in order.
“He’s very meticulous,” Tirozzi said of Cunha, who has run the Owl’s Nest for the past 10 years.
Then the self-described terrorist fell into a deep silence.
Meanwhile a friend of Cunha, who also preferred not to be identified, stopped the buffer machine he was operating—they were getting ready for the big crowd at karaoke night Thursday—to clarify some of the violations:
The fish cited in the report belongs to Cunha, the friend said. He had caught or procured it to take to his home, not for restaurant use. He had dropped it off in the back of the restaurant, temporarily.
That’s when the inspector came. “Personal stuff,” said the friend.
As to the cracked bathroom sink, the friend said both bathrooms had been remodeled completely in the last year. He attributed the crack to heavy-set women leaning too hard against it.
As for the hand soap dispenser? The adhesive gave way.
All problems are in the process of being repaired, he said. Bartender Marie Blue said she has received inspectors for the last ten years, and this is the first time in her memory the Owl’s Nest did not pass.
Following are the results from the latest round of inspections:
9/11/2012: Joy Kitchen, 251 Grand Ave., Score: 86; McDonald’s Restaurant, 308 Ferry St., Score: 92; Orange Side Luncheonette, 235 Orange St., Score: 81; Metropolitan Business Academy, 115 Water St., Score: 96; Super Marketa, 270 Grand Ave., Score: 80; Joan Grocery, 181 James St., Score: 83; Shake Shack, 986 Chapel St., Score: 97; Multicultural Ambulatory Adct, 426 East St., Score: 92;
9/12/2012: El Amigo Felix, 8 Whalley Ave., Score: 89 ; Kamal Indian Restaurant, 140 Howe St., Score: 86; Basil Restaurant, 142 Howe St., Score: 84;; Lena’s Cafe and Confections, 873 Whalley Ave., Score: 83;; Royal Palace Restaurant, 32 Orange St., Score: 82; O’Toole’s Irish Pub, 157 Orange St., Score: 94; Thali Regional Cuisine, 4 Orange St., Score: 89; Pizza Empire, 16 Whalley Ave., Score: 82; Strong School, 130 Orchard St., Score: 87; Lindley Food Service, 201 Wallace St., Score: 90
9/13/2012: Yummies, 679 Dixwell, Score: 92; 4 Corner Deli & Market, 706 Dixwell Ave., Score: 82;; Happy House, 159 Truman St., Score: 85; Michael’s Downtown, 130 Court St., Score: 80; Dee Asian Kitchen, 163 Temple St., Score: 83; Seventh Haven, 129 Sylvan Ave., Score: 88; McDonald’s Restaurant, 280 Kimberly Ave., Score: 81; Gpscy Bar, 204 York St., Score: 93; Frank Pepe Pizzeria, 158 Wooster St., Score: 85; Shubert Theater, 247 College St., Score: 96
9/15/2012: The Spot, 163 Wooster St., Score: 88
9/17/2012: CVC Pharmacy, 215 Whalley Ave., Score: 94;Christopher Martin’s, 860 State St., Score: 81; New State Garden, 952 State St., Score: 82; Subway, 193 Whalley Ave., Score: 88; Double “G” HFW Center, 773 Dixwell Ave., Score: 90; Shelton Grocery, 383 Shelton Ave., Score: 88; Visels Drug Store, 714 Dixwell Ave., Score: 89; Palm Tree Restaurant, 771 Dixwell Ave., Score: 92; Vito’s Deli, 37 Center St., Score: 96; D Coffin Big Green Pizza Trk, 530 East St., Score: 80; Victor’s Market, 491 Howard Ave., Score: 80; Buffalo Wild Wings, 74 Church St., Score: 82; Dunkin Donuts, 81 Church St., Score: 85; Gateway Food Store, 55 Church St., Score: 81; Wing Madness, 716 Dixwell Ave., Score: 89
3 Need Improvement
During the Sept. 11 to Sept. 17 period, the following three failed their inspections and were given two weeks to make improvements.
Michael’s Downtown Catering
130 Court St.
• Don’t store knives “sheath” style
• Use approved methods to defrost products
• Wipe inside coolers and freezers
• Store wipe cloths in sanitary solutions
• Don’t store food containers in exposed food products
• Clean ceiling tiles, fix defective walls and ceilings
• Cover exposed food products
• Fix defective screen and door, seal gaps in exterior door
• Clean baffle on hood system, seal floor/wall junctions
• Move thermometer to warmest location in coolers holding prepared hot foods
• Lower hot water in bathroom to in between 110 and 115 degrees
• Touch up flooring, clean floors under equipment
• Fix defective shelves, clean shelves, wipe exterior of equipment
• Hang up mops and brooms
• Fix leak on trap - corrected on site
• Touch up defective structure (door case, door jamb, exterior)
865 Whalley Ave.
Due: 2 Weeks
• Missing thermometer in walk-in refrigerator
• Walk-floor moldy in corners
• Brooms stored on floor throughout
• Inside ice machine - mold
• Scoop resting in ice machine
• Scoop handle touching ice
• Slop sink in disrepair - replace
• No hot water in toilet room hand sink
• Toilet not clean
• Food worker not utilizing 3-step process to clean equipment: wash, rinse, sanitize
• Fruit flies present
• Boxes, plastic gloves and other wrapping papers strewn throughout establishment
• Numerous items including equipment around store not in use - remove
• Cardboard boxes on ground around dumpster
• Missing food worker training logs
• Missing “No Smoking” sign at entrance
• No QFO on site, two weeks
3 Tour Ave.
Due: 2 Weeks
• Frozen fish in black garbage bag - remove
• Lining reach-in with wiping cloth, lining safe top with apron
• Hand sink in kitchen with towel dispenser in disrepair
• No sanitizer on premises
• Dirty wiping cloths not stored in sanitizer bucket
• No hand soap or paper towels at bar hand sink
• Hot water at bar hand sink - tepid only
• Fruit flies present throughout
• Floor of beer reach-in not clean
• Mold inside ice machine
• Missing thermometers in beer reach-ins
• Mold on vent fan of beer cooler, cracked
• Men’s room hand sink cracked
• Missing covered waste baskets in women’s toilet room
• Green bar counter in disrepair
• Post “No Smoking” sign at entrances