Dirty Park Ridge restaurants follow path to health
Rating Park Ridge's food service establishments
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:15AM
PARK RIDGE — Tim Schwarz wants restaurant owners and managers to view their kitchens — and the procedures they follow to keep them clean and healthy places — through the eyes of someone just like him.
A city health inspector.
During the last few months of 2012, Schwarz began more frequently using a tool he believes may help food service establishments that are struggling to meet the city’s food safety and sanitation requirements. Owners of restaurants found to have critical violations or repeated violations were asked to complete a corrective action plan for how they will address the problems noted and enforce results.
“Instead of fining them, we require the action plan for a long-term fix,” Schwarz said, explaining that this allows those in charge to “look at their restaurant through the eyes of the inspector” in order for them to better identify potential problems — and solutions.
“It’s a tool that we use when we know we’ve had places with critical violations,” Schwarz said.
Food service establishments in Park Ridge are rated on several areas, the most critical being proper temperature of cooked and uncooked food, proper sanitation of utensils and cookware, a proper hot-water source, hygienic practices by employees, avoiding cross-contamination of food, and insect and rodent control.
Establishments are rated between one and three times each year, depending upon the type of food served and how it is served.
Affresco, 11 N. Northwest Hwy., was one restaurant required to develop an action plan after receiving a score of 36 percent during a Dec. 7 routine inspection that resulted in the suspension of its business license.
According to the inspection report, some of the violations noted were improper temperature of foods, the potential for cross-contamination of foods due to how they were stored, fruit flies in the bar and basement, mold on cheese inside a refrigerator, bread stored on the floor and frozen shrimp reportedly found thawing inside stagnant water in the food preparation sink.
The restaurant did come up with a 17-point action plan that day, allowing it to reopen.
A message left for Affresco owner Sergio Lazzara was not returned as of Monday.
China House, 610 Devon Ave., which received a score of 51 percent during a July inspection, and D’Agostino’s, 742 Higgins Rd., which received a score of 65 percent during a December inspection, were also required to develop action plans due to what inspectors called “repeated critical violations.”
Schwarz said new owners of China House had failed to follow “basic food-safety practices,” and a language barrier presented challenges as well.
Schwarz said once the action plan was in place, the city began seeing positive results at China House.
D’Agostino’s released a response to the inspection, stating the Park Ridge Department of Environmental Health has been “instrumental” in helping the restaurant “adhere to the highest standards of sanitation.”
“Their recommendations help us improve our food preparation environment,” the statement said.
Schwarz said the action plans he has instituted work because they are required as part of inspections.
Inspection scores show that majority of Park Ridge food service establishments scored well last year, with 56 out just over 100 receiving an average score above 90 percent. Three establishments received one failing grade.
Overall, the average score for all food service establishments was around 86 or 87 percent in 2012, Schwarz said.
“We’re trying to get the scores higher,” he said. “We know the restaurants that keep affecting the bell curve and we’ll keep looking at those.”
One recurring problem inspectors noted in 2012 was pests.
“Fruit flies were pretty bad in some locations,” Schwarz said. “I don’t know why it was. We were still having problems in December and you shouldn’t see fruit flies this late.”