All evening, knots of potential diners and mere passersby stopped to gawk at the yellow notice up in the window of John’s Pizzeria.
[Update, Saturday morning 9:34am: Last night as I passed John’s Pizzeria around midnight, work was just finishing up on the clean-up and remediation of the violations. A guy coming out of the street metal doors to the basement told me the place would re-open the next day (today) in the afternoon. We’ll report when the place actually opens.]
[Update, Thursday mornning 10:26am: The closure has finally been posted, with a whopping 45 violation points, down from 10 last May. Look below for the full list of violations.]
[Further update: As of 5:15pm, still no change in the posted letter grade of A for John’s of Bleecker Street. You can watch the DOH website yourself by going to this page and typing in “John’s Pizzeria” in the restaurant box, and then clicking on the one on Bleecker Sreet when the five that the search turns up appear.]
[Update: As of 1pm, the posted letter on the DOH website remains A. WTF DOH?]
Yesterday afternoon, the Department of Health closed John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker Street, one of the three original coal-oven pizzerias founded by a baker who’d worked for Lombardi’s, the inventor of pizza as we know it based on Neapolitan models. It was founded at this location in 1929 by John Sasso. This was the second time in two years the venerable Greenwich Village institution was closed by the activist department.
As soon as the list of violations is posted on the Department website, Fork in the Road will report on them. The Department (full name: Department of Health and Mental Hygiene) uses an archaic system of inspections that include measuring the temperature of milk and collecting mouse droppings in hidden areas with tweezers, but does no bacteria culturing or chemical tests.
Update: The violations report from the DOH:
1) Raw, cooked or prepared food is adulterated, contaminated, cross-contaminated, or not discarded in accordance with HACCP plan.
2) Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.
3) Filth flies or food/refuse/sewage-associated (FRSA) flies present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas. Filth flies include house flies, little house flies, blow flies, bottle flies and flesh flies. Food/refuse/sewage-associated flies include fruit flies, drain flies and Phorid flies.
4) Facility not vermin proof. Harborage or conditions conducive to attracting vermin to the premises and/or allowing vermin to exist.
5) Pesticide use not in accordance with label or applicable laws. Prohibited chemical used/stored. Open bait station used.
As far as the violations actually being dangerous to the public health, that is doubtful, since the pizzas are cooked at 900 degrees and delivered to the table hot, and no bacteria or virus can survive that.
There are three tiers to the inspection system, for which a restaurant may receive grades of A, B, or C. If a place racks up too many violations to be awarded a C, it is automatically closed. On its previous inspection (the last one listed on the DOH website) on 11/21/11, John’s received an A grade.
John Sasso’s iconic pie
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 13, 2012